Craigslist Should Not Be Liable for FHA Violations

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Cases involving the unmasking of anonymous online commenters

Cases that require courts to reveal the identity of anonymous online commenters or speakers are often quite challenging because of the many issues involved for both the courts and the complainant. Moore (2008) indicates that courts can only unmask the identity of online speakers if there exists a valid cause for a libel claim. The burden of establishing the libel claim rests on the complainant, and the anonymous speaker must be presented with the opportunity for defense (Moore, 2008). Litigation of such issues in court are determined by several factors which the courts must carefully consider. Key among these factors is the requirement that the demand by the complainant must establish a prima facie cause of action (Moore, 2008). That is, the demand must present sufficient evidence for the complaint to win the case against the defendant. The complainant must also provide enough evidence to establish the defamation claim. Lastly, the courts are expected to strike a balance between the First Amendment right of the speaker and the strengths of the prima facie case presented (Moore, 2008). In Doe v. Cahill, the Delaware Supreme Court held that prospective plaintiffs must provide enough evidence to establish the legality of the defamation claim for the identity of anonymous online speakers to be revealed (Moore, 2008). The decision was aimed at discouraging companies from alleging claims of defamation without providing sufficient evidence in their defense. The case of Immunomedics can thus be effectively handled by following the highlighted approach.

Chapter 11

Craigslist should not be liable for FHA violations. The Seventh Circuit's decision in Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. V. Craigslist, Inc., provided that interactive computer service providers should not be held liable for unscreened, user-generated content on their websites (Opron, 2008). Furthermore, the Communications Decency Act does not require interactive computer service providers like Craigslist to be held civilly accountable for user-generated content published on their websites (Opron, 2008). Therefore, Craigslist cannot be prosecuted under the FHA. After all, the discriminatory content on their websites is generated by users and not the company.


Moore, S. (2008). The challenge of internet anonymity: protecting John Doe on the internet. J. Marshall J. Computer & Info. L., 26, 469.

Opron III, J. J. (2008). License to Kill (the Dream of Fair Housing): How the Seventh Circuit in Craigslist Gave Websites a Free Pass to Publish Discriminatory Housing Advertisements. Seventh Circuit Review, 4(1), 152.

September 04, 2023

Law World


United States

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