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Giordano v. Romeo and Xcentric Ventures

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Liability of Web Site Operators for Content Provided by Site Users

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Description:

Giordano, the owner of a “holistic” drug rehabilitation center in Florida, sued Romeo, a consumer, for defamation after Romeo posted a strong criticism of her treatment on the Ripoff Report web site owned by defendant Xcentric. Hoping to force Xcentric to remove the blog post despite its announced policy of never removing posts, Giordano induced Romeo to agree that one small fact in the post was false and to consent to entry of a preliminary injunction requiring her to take the post down; when Xcentric refused Romeo’s request that her post be removed, Giordano argued that Xcentric could be ordered to remove the post despite its immunity from suit under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The judge denied the motion and dismissed the comaplaint, and Giordano appealed.

On appeal, Public Citizen filed a friend of the court brief supporting Xcentric. We argued that the language of section 230 forbids suit against the operators of interactive web sites for any relief, injunctions as well as damages and that, in any event, there are many good reasons to construe the statute to allow the hosts of consumer commentary web site to choose whether to remove or redact criticisms even after a court decision has been issued favorable to the business that has been criticized. The Florida Court of Appeal ultimately agreed that, however appalling its business practices may be, Xcentric was immune from suit and could not ordered to remove the post that he plaintiff and other defendant had agreed was defamatory.