I recently posted that the Seventh Circuit upheld Judge St. Eve’s decision in CLC v. Craigslist. In those decisions, Craigslist was found not liable for allegedly discriminatory housing want ads posted on its site because of the Good Samaritan clause of § 230 of the Communications Decency Act. University of Chicago Prof. Randy Picker authored a post at the University of Chicago Law School Facility Blog arguing that the Good Samaritan clause, which exempts ISPs from any filtering requirements, significantly disadvantages Craigslist’s bricks and mortar competitor – newspapers. Newspapers, which are in dire financial straits, are required to filter discriminating adds.
Picker argues that Craigslist (or ISPs more broadly) and newspapers should be treated equally – either both or neither should have to filter. As a newspaper aficionado, this makes a lot of sense to me. The problem is that either extreme is problematic. Filtering, at least tailored filtering to avoid a large percentage of false positives, is impractical for ISPs because of the high volume of content and small work force. On the other hand, not filtering likely harms the Fair Housing Act. But there maybe a viable mid-ground. Both ISPs and newspapers could be exempted from filtering and a take down provision could be created, similar to the DMCA. Someone who finds a discriminatory ad could send a take down notice, causing the ISP or newspaper to remove the ad. The advertiser could then challenge the notice. A take down provision would allow entities like the CLC to protect the ideals of the Fair Housing Act. And it would allow newspapers and ISPs to compete on an even playing field.