The case of Sarah Jones vs. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings has been put to a re-trial and looks like Jones could win her case after several who have previously filed deformation cases against the dirty and other similar websites have been dismissed under the Communications Decency Act.
This could pave the way for others with negative online reputations who are using reputation management companies to fight their cases.
The Dirty (www.thedirty.com) is a blogging website owned by Hooman Abedi Karamian or as he is known Nik Richie. The website publishes gossip posted by its 22 million monthly users which is usually information, pictures, txt messages or videos of users dishing the ‘dirt’ on ex-girlfriends.
The site has been criticised for publishing anonymous posts by people without checking the facts which has left many peoples online reputations in tatters. The site has high rankings and has been known to affect the lives of those who have their pictures or stories posted online portraying them in a negative way, in some cases people have struggled to find employment.
Sarah Jones first had issues with the gossip site in 2009 after a post appeared on the website claiming she had had sex with every player on a football team and later contracted sexually transmitted diseases.
In 2012 Sarah Jones pleaded no contest to having a sexual relationship with 17-year-old student Cody York at Dixie Heights High School where she taught. The prosecution sentenced Jones to 5 years of probation without a jail sentence or being placed on the sex offenders register.
Jones told jurors that several posts on the website humiliated her. Some of the Jury disagreed saying that she wasn’t defamed because she had previously admitted her relationship with the underage boy. However it has been argued that despite the truth of information posted about her concerns were raised over the website, and how it allowed content to be posted without checking the truth of stories.
Jones is reportedly suing the website for $11 million dollars or “whatever will put them out of business.” Richie the website owner claims she is just trying to make money from the success of his website, whilst Jones claims to be fighting for people’s reputation and to protect people from false claims made on the site.
Website owner Richie claims he is protected under what is called the “Communications Decency Act” and cannot be held with legal liability. The website claims it operates just like Facebook and Twitter and cannot be liable for other users content. The judge has disagreed with this claiming that Richie does moderate every post made to the website unlike social media sites.
There have been numerous lawsuits against The Dirty previously and several have been rejected due to The Communications Decency Act (CDA). The CDA states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
The previous case ruled that Richie was immune from liability since the post wasn’t submitted by Richie. Since then Jones was given a retrial because Richie adds his own personal comments to most posts on the site. Richie also refused to take down posts containing false information for 10 months after many emails from Jones.
The case could be very important for reputation management companies such as Igniyte as many clients have issues with gossip sites such as The Dirty and struggle to remove posts about clients who have been mis-portrayed.