"We acknowledge that recognizing broad immunity for defamatory republications on the Internet has some troubling consequences. Until Congress chooses to revise the settled law in this area, however, plaintiffs who contend they were defamed in an Internet posting may only seek recovery from the original source of the statement."The ruling overturns a decision of the California Court of Appeal, which held that the CDA did not protect a "distributor" who republished an allegedly defamatory statement with notice of its defamatory character.
The case pitted the operator of a Web site devoted to exposing health frauds, Dr. Stephen J. Barrett, against the operator of an Internet discussion group, Ilena Rosenthal. Rosenthal received a copy of an article that made various allegations concerning Barrett's character and competence. When she posted the article to two news groups, Barrett sued. The trial court ruled that her republication of the article was protected under the CDA, but the Court of Appeal reversed -- a move the Supreme Court characterized as "swimming against the jurisprudential tide."
The case had drawn friend-of-the-court briefs from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and a who's who of technology and media companies.