LOS ANGELES—A three-judge panel of the 9th District Court of Appeals in Beaumont, Texas has invoked Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as its sole reason for denying a group of "revenge porn" victims the right to hold GoDaddy.com accountable for the actions of Texxxan.com. The 17 female plaintiffs in their complaint called the site an "explicit website... dedicated to publishing intimate photos of young women, and also publishing private facts about these women, all of which are done without obtaining permission or authorization from the women who are the victims of this website."
According to Courthouse News Service, "Hollie Toups and 16 other women in GoDaddy v Toups had filed the breach of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence suit last year against Texxxan.com and GoDaddy in Orange County District Court." However, it added, "The trial court refused to dismiss the claims against GoDaddy, but a three-judge panel with the 9th District Court of Appeals in Beaumont reversed Thursday."
Writing for the panel, Justice Charles Kreger was adamant that the plaintiffs were treading on prohibited ground, stating unequivocally, "Allowing plaintiffs' to assert any cause of action against GoDaddy for publishing content created by a third party, or for refusing to remove content created by a third party would be squarely inconsistent with section 230. Because GoDaddy acted only as an interactive computer service provider and was not an information content provider with regard to the material published on the websites, plaintiffs cannot maintain claims against GoDaddy that treat it as a publisher of that material."
Not only that, but the 22-page opinion by Kreger made sure to clarify that the CDA provides immunity to ISPs even when content even when the content is "illegal, obscene, or otherwise may form the basis of criminal prosecution.
"There is no provision in the CDA that limits its application to suits involving constitutionally protected material," Kreger added. "Reading such an exception into the statute would undermine its purpose."
The ruling also shut the door on any further revisions to the original complaint in this case, which had already been amended three times. "Allowing plaintiffs to once again replead their case, at this late stage, would be an inefficient use of the parties' and the court's resources, would unduly prejudice GoDaddy, and would be contrary to the policies set forth in the CDA," Kreger wrote.
In a somewhat related case, Toups also filed a copyright infringement lawsuit March 6 in Beaumont against Google and Yahoo!, accusing each of linking to the Texxxan.com "revenge porn" site.
The complaint in that case states, "Toups has provided proper notice to each of these defendants, requesting that they take down all links that would show these copyrighted photos, and all images showing these copyrighted images. All of the defendants refuse to do so, despite receiving proper notice and a demand to do so."
The GoDaddy v Toups Opinion can be read here.