CDA230

M.A. v. Village Voice Media, 809 F.Supp.2d 1041 (E.D. Miss. 2011)

Type of online publisher: 
Backpage.com, online classified advertising site
Publisher's Role in Third Party Content: 
Makes ads searchable via keyword; created highly viewed website; offered special ad placement for a fee
CDA § 230 applicable?: 
Yes

A minor who was trafficked in part via advertisements posted on Backpage.com sued Village Voice, the owner of Backpage, alleging that the company aided and abetted her trafficking. The court rejected the claim. First, the court held Backpage retained its immunity as a content provider under § 230 despite allegations that it had general notice of illegal advertisements on the site and profited from such ads. Second, Village Voice was not guilty of aiding and abetting, which requires acting with specific intent to aid in the commission of a crime. Since the plaintiff did not allege that Backpage acted with specific intent to aid in the victim's trafficking, the court rejected the aiding and abetting allegation.

Key Quotes:

[T]o find Backpage to be not immune from suit based on M.A.'s allegations about how it structured its website in order to increase its profits would be to create a for-profit exception to § 230's broad grant of immunity. This the Court may not do.

[O]ther cases [have applied] the broad reach of § 230's immunity to websites that, whatever they did to increase their profitability and visibility, did not create the content of the offensive posted information.

Court Opinion Document: 
Jurisdiction: 

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