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2d Circuit Holds Communications Decency Act Immunizes GoDaddy from Defamation Claims and Preempts Such State Claims

The Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of defamation and other claims against GoDaddy based upon newsletter postings on a labor union's website hosted by GoDaddy, invoking the exemption and preemption provisions in the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 230.  Ricci v. Teamsters Union Local 456, 2d Cir. No. 14-1732 (March 18, 2015).  The slip opinion is currently available on the Court's website here.

Surprisingly, this is an issue of first impression in the Second Circuit, which joined three other circuits and at least one district court which "have applied the statute to a growing list of internet-based service providers ..." (citing cases in D.C., 5th, and 7th Circuits).  Ricci, slip op. 7.

The Ricci plaintiffs were union members who sued their union for allegedly defamatory statements posted on the union's website which was hosted by GoDaddy.  

The Second Circuit held GoDaddy was immune from suit under Section 230(c)(1) of the Decency Act which states:  "[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."  47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1).  Ricci, slip op. 5.

The Court also held that such state law defamation claims were expressly preempted by the Act:  "No cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local that is inconsistent with this section."  47 U.S.C. 230(e)(3).  Ricci, slip op. 5.  The plaintiffs labor-based claims were held to be time-barred.

Though the result seemed foreordained, the issues under the Decency Act had not been previously decided by the Second Circuit and should provide further comfort to "interactive computer service[s]."  47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1).