Type of online publisher: 
Distributor of newsletter sent over list serve
Publisher's Role in Third Party Content: 
Minor edits to text
CDA § 230 applicable?: 
Yes, unless third party did not intend his content for publication

Batzel helped cement a growing consensus among courts that CDA § 230 granted Internet publishers broad protection for publishing third party content. The decision recognized that in order to facilitate online speech, "Congress… has chosen to treat cyberspace differently" from traditional publishers.

In Batzel, the distributor of an electronic newsletter was a publisher for the purposes of CDA § 230 when he forwarded a third party's email to the newsletter list serve with only minor edits. For the court, the only question was whether the author intended his email to be forwarded. The appellate court remanded the case to determine if the author did in fact "provide" his email for further distribution, within the meaning of § 230.

Key Quotes:

As a matter of policy, "Congress decided not to treat providers of interactive computer services like other information providers such as newspapers, magazines or television and radio stations, all of which may be held liable for publishing obscene or defamatory material written or prepared by others." (citing Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F.Supp. 44, 49 (D.D.C. 1998)).

A distinction between removing an item once it has appeared on the Internet and screening before publication cannot fly either. For one thing, there is no basis for believing that Congress intended a one-bite-at-the-apple form of immunity. Also, Congress could not have meant to favor removal of offending material over more advanced software that screens out the material before it ever appears.

We therefore hold that a service provider or user is immune from liability under § 230(c)(1) when a third person or entity that created or developed the information in question furnished it to the provider or user under circumstances in which a reasonable person in the position of the service provider or user would conclude that the information was provided for publication on the Internet or other "interactive computer service."

Court Opinion Document: