In the matter of Daniel v. Armslist, LLC, a Wisconsin appeals court published an opinion that threatens Section 230 website host immunity.
In short, the matter pertains to a lawsuit stemming from a shooting incident that left four dead. The weapon was purchased from an online advertising service known as Armslist. The shooter was subject to a court order banning him from owning a gun.
The daughter of one of the victims filed a lawsuit against Armslist for negligence. After the lower court dismissed the case on the basis of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the appeals court reversed based, in large part, upon the design and operation of the website. In doing so, the appeals court ignored long-standing precedent that holds website hosts are not the publisher of information.
The appeals court held that the plaintiff did not allege that Armslist was the publisher, rather than the content posted by a third-person.
Takeaway: If not reversed on appeal, website operators in Wisconsin, including marketplace platforms, may be provided less protection than in the rest of the country and face tort-liability for the design and operation of their web properties.
Richard B. Newman represents marketers, advertisers and Internet companies. His practice also includes defending investigations and litigation brought by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general regarding national advertising campaigns. Follow him on LinkedIn at FTC Defense Lawyer.
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