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Federal appeals court rules online community not liable for discriminatory housing ads

[JURIST] The US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that the online community craigslist [community website] is not liable for third-party postings to its website which attempt to discriminate against people seeking housing. The plaintiffs in the case, the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. (CLCCRUL) [advocacy website] had alleged [complaint, PDF] that some postings on craigslist violated provisions of the Fair Housing Act [text] banning advertisements that state a preference or limitation, or discriminate against anyone seeking housing. The Seventh Circuit rejected the claim, however, holding that under section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 [text, PDF], an online information system such as craigslist, "'must not be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by' someone else." AP has more.

The Seventh Circuit's decision affirmed a lower court ruling [opinion]. In a memo supporting the CLCCUL's position in the case, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) [official website] had urged the court [memo, PDF] to require online communities that host solicitations for housing to screen and filter user submissions in order to ensure Fair Housing Act compliance.

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