Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, others keeping eye on “Heckler’s Veto” case

A cheerleader’s defamation lawsuit against a gossip site has big implications for sites that carry third party content of any kind. At the core of the suit:

“If websites are subject to liability for failing to remove third-party content whenever someone objects, they will be subject to the ‘heckler’s veto,’ giving anyone who complains unfettered power to censor speech,” according to briefs filed Nov. 19 by lawyers for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Gawker and BuzzFeed, among others.

In other words, should Facebook or Twitter be liable for statements posted by one of its users? Should Amazon be held liable for the accuracy of a review posted on its site?

  • James Whitney

    There are a few differences that make this case different from what the last paragraph suggests (though the defendant’s attorney is doing his damnedest to create the impression that the sky will fall because of this ruling). The jury found the defendant acted with malice, presumably because the defendant screens each post individually and decides what goes on the website and what doesn’t. The defamation in this case was something that the defendant deliberately posted. Facebook, Twitter and Amazon don’t screen user created content, and would be highly unlikely to have acted with malice in allowing the content to be posted.

    I’m sure Facebook, Twitter and Amazon would rather the defendant win but I doubt they are too worried about it. The defendant’s attorney is simply trying to do his job by claiming the sky will fall if the defendant loses.

  • lucascott

    I agree and disagree with this idea. I don’t think that Facebook etc are liable for things posted.

    UNLESS the items are obviously abusive and have been reported. Then if the service doesn’t remove it they should share in the guilt.

    There is a vast difference between reporting someone cause they publicly admitted they don’t believe in God and reporting someone cause they called you or another person a faggot who takes it up the ass and is going to go to hell cause God hates fags and wants them to die horrible deaths and that’s why he made AIDS.

  • Jake Lazaroff

    “Richie screens each post, decides what goes up and often adds his own commentary.”

    So really this is entirely different from how things work at Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. This is not unfiltered third-party content—the site owner himself is actively screening and publishing these posts. He should absolutely be liable for their contents.