A unanimous three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit held in Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc. that a claim for promissory estoppel by an Internet harassment victim was not necessarily precluded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that her former boyfriend created a Yahoo account through which the plaintiff herself appeared to be soliciting men for rough, anonymous sex, contained nude photos of Barnes and divulged the addresses, IRL and electronic, and telephone number of place of employment. The ex-boyfriend posed as Barnes in Yahoo chat rooms and actively encouraged the belief that Barnes desired sexual contact. In response men began “peppering her office with emails, phone calls, and personal visits, all in the expectation of sex.” This not only put per job at risk, but also put Plaintiff at risk for sexual assault by men who would claim the acts were consensual based on the Yahoo facilitated communications.
In 2005 a trial court had issued a decision dismissing all of plaintiff’s claims, holding that Yahoo was immune from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 even though plaintiff alleged that Yahoo! “undertook to remove from its website material harmful to the plaintiff but failed to do so.”
I’m expecting the reaction that if Yahoo isn’t allowed to facilitate and profit from this type of acute sexual harassment in a completely unfettered and unaccountable manner it will be the death of both the Internet and the First Amendment, with the implicit assumption that the bitch totally deserved it.