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GoDaddy is a domain registrar and web hosting company. It allows users to pick a domain name and offers various hosting service plans. It also provides website backups, GoDaddy account support, and other online services.
The Second Circuit ruled that it is immune from defamation claims based on the websites it hosts. Under the Communications Decency Act, there are protections in place for:
These types of companies and services are protected from claims of:
Pro se litigants have sued Godaddy.com and its parent company in the past. This means people who represent themselves in court. Their case involved allegedly false statements made against them on a Teamsters website.
The plaintiffs, Peter and Barbara Ricci, sued the Teamsters for alleged retaliatory acts in violation of the NLRA. The case was related to:
The Riccis allege that Peter was "blackballed," lost jobs, and was shut out of work opportunities over ten years after refusing to endorse the Teamster President at a meeting in 2002.
In 2012, according to the Ricci's, the Teamsters published a newsletter, online and in print, defaming them and their daughter. The situation led the Ricci's to sue.
Under Sec. 203 of the CDA, web hosting companies such as GoDaddy are shielded from liability for speech-related torts based on the information published by another.
As the Second Circuit noted, Congress explicitly set out to protect the speech "in the new and burgeoning Internet medium" through the CDA.
The grant of immunity to online services prevents them from bearing responsibility as the intermediaries of other parties' messages. However, websites that produce the information themselves are considered "content providers" that do not benefit from the CDA's immunity provisions.
With the protections of the CDA to back it up, GoDaddy's defense was straightforward. The Riccis did not allege that GoDaddy had any relationship with the supposedly defamatory speech other than hosting it on its website.
CDA immunity is well established. Even in much more egregious cases, such as that of the "Craigslist Killer," internet intermediaries are immune from many types of tort liability.
The courts have ruled that website providers cannot be held liable to restrict access to objectionable material when acting in good faith. This falls under the CDA's free speech laws as well.
This doesn't always stop people from pursuing class action or individual lawsuits against GoDaddy or similar companies.
There have been lawsuits against GoDaddy and other hosting services for issues such as:
These cases can be hard to win, and GoDaddy is a formidably large company with various legal protections. However, you should seek legal advice on your specific situation. An attorney can help you identify if you have a case.
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