August 13, 2008 | By Rebecca Jeschke

Wikipedia Wins Dismissal of Baseless Defamation Claims

In a victory for free speech and user-generated content, a New Jersey judge has dismissed baseless defamation claims against the operator of Wikipedia. In a recent ruling, the judge correctly found that federal law immunizes the Wikimedia Foundation from liability for statements made by its users.

This case began when literary agent Barbara Bauer sued Wikimedia, claiming the organization was liable for statements identifying her as one of the "dumbest of the twenty worst" agents and that she had "no documented sales at all." EFF and the law firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton represented Wikimedia, and moved to dismiss the case in May, arguing that under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, operators of "interactive computer services" such as Wikipedia cannot be held liable for users' comments.

Section 230's blanket protection of sites like Wikipedia does not mean that alleged defamation on the Internet cannot be challenged in court. Instead, the law requires that litigants direct their efforts at the speakers themselves and not the forums where statements were made. This means that sites like Wikipedia, Craigslist, and other online communities can continue to include user-generated content without living in fear of costly lawsuits.

Since it was signed into law over a decade ago, courts across the country have consistently applied the protections of Section 230 broadly, fulfilling Congress' intent to foster online interactive communications. We're pleased to add this case to the list.


Deeplinks Topics

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

What do you call it when companies make back-room deals to control Internet content? We call it Shadow Regulation. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks...

Sep 29 @ 3:14pm

Sen. @RonWyden sent this letter to @ODNIgov about unused transparency bonuses, following EFF's report https://www.eff.org/document/...

Sep 29 @ 2:26pm

Much interest at the WTO in new global trade rules for the Internet… but also acceptance that users must be involved https://www.eff.org/deeplinks...

Sep 29 @ 12:33pm
JavaScript license information