Given all the commentary that greeted the filing of the complaint in Doe v. MySpace, Inc. last year, it’s a little odd how quietly the district court’s dismissal of the case this week has been greeted. (The court’s opinion is available as a scanned PDF here, and my possibly typo-laden transcription is on Wikisource.) Score Round 1 in the debate over the reach of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230) to cyberprof (and blogger) Eric Goldman, who correctly predicted that MySpace would escape liability under the CDA. The court agreed that the plaintiffs were essentially seeking to penalize MySpace for the actions of its users, which under the CDA it has no duty to police.
The policy debate over whether online fora such as social networking sites ought to do more to protect users, particularly underage users, from the consequences of their ill-chosen actions online will no doubt continue; whatever one’s opinion about the proper sweep of the CDA, the facts of the Doe case are fairly wrenching — the stuff of which grandstanding legislative hearings are made. Stay tuned for subsequent chapters of what is sure to become a lengthy book.