The Communications Decency Act protects website publishers from lawsuits based on defamatory comments submitted by their users, even when those comments are reposted by the website’s administrators to a more prominent position, the New York Court of Appeals has ruled in a 4-3 decision.
In upholding a lower court’s dismissal of real estate broker Christakis Shiamili’s defamation suit against the operators of a defunct blog that promised to expose the "underbelly of the Manhattan Real Estate Market," New York’s highest court said the defendants had only acted as editors and publishers, rather than creators, of most of the disputed content.
In February 2008, the blog — allegedly created and administered by employees of a rival brokerage firm — reposted a comment by an anonymous user who claimed Shiamili, the founder and CEO of Ardor Realty Corp., mistreated employees and was racist and anti-Semitic.
The commenter claimed that Shiamili had referred to one of Ardor Realty’s agents as "his token Jew."
In republishing the comment as a standalone post, website administrator Ryan McCann of The Real Estate Group of New York Inc. (TREGNY) allegedly headlined the post "Ardor Realty and Those People," and added an image of Jesus Christ with Shiamili’s face and the words, "Chris Shiamili: King of the Token Jews."