Craigslist Benefits by Not Controlling Content – Webhosts, Take Note.

I can’t believe I still pay these people money.There’s a reason superheroes wear masks. Nobody wants to be perpetually liable for saving the world.  Plus, such heroes would be attacked, lobbied, and ultimately reviled when they can’t be everything to everyone.

This week, Craiglist enjoyed the benefits of not being a censorship hero. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Craigslist is not liable for discriminatory housing messages posted in its forums. Judge Amy St. Eve ruled the site serves as an intermediary party, not a publisher. It is therefore protected by the Federal Communications Decency Act.

However, this same week, Network Solutions joined a growing list of Internet hosts censoring their customers’ sites. The company took down a website which simply announced it would distribute an anti-Islam film made by Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders. There had been complaints.

Other infrastructure players have also been stepping up to the censor role. AT&T and Comcast both have seemed eager to help block sites which distribute files in violation of copyright and take up network resources. GoDaddy took down RateMyCop, which posted publicly available information about police officers. And the host of Wikileaks, the anonymous whistle-blower web site, took the site down rather than oppose an action by one of the organizations being reported about on the site.

The problem with hosting companies acquiescing to pressure from complaints is that doing so encourages similar requests in the future. And taking such decisions on themselves both deprives their customers of due process and promises simply to embroil hosting companies in a fast-multiplying number of publishing disputes.

As long as hosting companies are willing to exercise editorial control on their clients, the demand for them to do so with grow–until they wish they were masked, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.