The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law Inc. (CLC), a group of 45 law firms, filed this lawsuit against Craigslist Inc., alleging violations of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Craigslist publishes notices and advertisements for housing, jobs and services on its Web sites, which are localized by city.

In a typical month, Craigslist posts more than 10 million items of “user-supplied information.” These postings are increasing at approximately 100 percent per year.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

In the housing category, the Craigslist Web site allows third-party users to post and read notices for housing sale and rental opportunities. CLC alleges Craigslist publishes housing notices that indicate preference, limitation or discrimination on the prohibited basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion or familial status.

Examples of notices CLC finds offensive and in violation of the FHA include: “No minorities”; “Looking for gay Latino”; “Requirements: clean, godly, Christian male”; “Only Muslims need apply”; “Walk to shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, synagogue”; and “Apartment too small for families with small children.”

Notwithstanding FHA’s broad scope, Craigslist argues the CLC complaint fails because of the immunity afforded to Web site operators by the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) for third-party content. The CLC replied that Congress did not intend to grant a vast, limitless immunity to Web site providers such as Craigslist.

If you were the judge would you rule Craigslist violated federal housing law, which prohibits discrimination in advertising for property rentals and sales?

The judge said no!

The federal CDA is very clear that “no provider of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher for information provided by another information content provider,” the judge began.

Craigslist is such a provider of an interactive computer service because, as alleged by the CLC complaint, Craigslist operates a Web site that multiple users have accessed to create allegedly discriminatory housing notices, the judge continued.

However, Craigslist is treated as a publisher of third-party content and, under the CDA, it is not liable for the content provided by those parties, the judge ruled. Therefore, Craigslist is not in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, the judge concluded.

Based on the U.S. District Court decision in Chicago Lawyers’ Committee v. Craigslist Inc., 461 Fed.Supp.2d 681.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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