14 August 2008

Wikipedia`s sigh of relief.

The Superior Court of New Jersey has dimissed the case brought by a literary agent, Barbara Bauer against Wikimedia Foundation, the operator of Wikipedia.

Barbara Bauer brought the case against Wikimedia claiming that the latter was liable for statements posted by users on Wikipedia. Some of the statements included she was the 'dumbest of the twenty worst' agents and that she had "no documented sales at all."

The Defendants argued that operators of 'interactive computer services' such as Wikipedia cannot be held liable for comments of its users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The latter provision does not give platforms immunity but rather requires litigants to complain against the user rather than the platform.

This is a sound legal decision which protects free speech online and also protects platforms against litigation. However, a balance needs to be achieved between the need to foster online interactive communications and protection of the third parties. Simple technological measures as moderating comments, before they are posted online, may help achieve this balance.
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