RipOffReport Loses Another Section 230 Case

RipOffReport Loses Another Section 230 Case

On August 19th, a federal court in Iowa rejected a RipOffReport (“ROR”) claim for immunity under Communications Decency Act Section 230, explaining

There is substantial evidence suggesting that the plaintiffs materially contributed to the alleged illegality of the information at issue.As noted above, there is an undisputed connection between Magedson and Meade concerning the Richter case, as they have participated in a “common cause” to free Richter. Xcentric made substantial payments to Meade during the period of time Meadwas gathering information and posting complaints about the case, including complaints with titles that associate certain state’s witnesses with illegal and/or embarrassing conduct.

See prior blog post.

Ten days later, another federal court has rejected ROR’s CDA defense.  In Vision Security v. Xcentric Ventures, a Utah federal court found the Complaint alleged sufficient facts to defeat a motion to dismiss under Section 230 since:

  • ROR markets itself as a consumer website with the tag line: “Don’t let them get away with it. Let the truth be known.”
  • Contrary to the stated tag line, ROR allows competitors, not just consumers, to post comments.
  • ROR knowingly publishes and refuses to remove false information (even when requested by the poster).
  • ROR’s webmaster told the Plaintiff that positive posts about a company are not allowed and that under no circumstances will ROR remove postings.  But, instead, offers for a large fee, its corporate advocacy program to companies with negative postings.
  • Thus, Vision Security could find a satisfactory solution to the offensive content—false and defamatory statements published on the Ripoff Report—by paying a large fee to join the corporate advocacy program.

While ROR defenders often note that ROR does not remove posts because sometimes the request is made under duress, that is an all too convenient excuse to ignore the fact that ROR is fully aware that many of its posts a malicious and defamatory.

In fact, as Judge Waddoups correctly notes, that appears to be ROR’s business model and its corporate advocacy program is nothing more than to monetize its defamation machine.

These specifically pleaded facts support a reasonable inference that Xcentric was not a neutral publisher. It had an interest in, and encouraged, negative content. It refused to remove the content, even when told by the author that it was false and he wanted it removed. What interest would a neutral publisher have in maintaining false and harmful content against the wishes of the author unless it advanced its own commercial interests? The alleged facts allow a reasonable inference that Xcentric refused to remove the offensive content to promote its own corporate advocacy program. Indeed, it is reasonable to infer that the very raison d’etre for the website was to commercialize on its ability to sell its program to counter the offensive content the Ripoff Report encouraged. See Accusearch, 570 F.3d at 1200.

Is this a one-time defeat or has the chink in ROR’s armor been exposed?