Fair housing group sues Craigslist for 'no minorities' listings

With ads like "I don't get along with African Americans and Arabians," posters would seem to violate the law, but Internet providers generally are not considered publishers and aren't liable for posters' language.

A Chicago fair housing group, the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has filed federal suit against Craigslist over housing listings that say "no minorities," in violation of federal fair-housing regulations, News.com's John Borland reports.

Attorney Stephen Libowsky, who's handling the case for the civil rights group, said that Craigslist provided a good service but should be held to the same standards that newspapers and other publications have met over the past few decades.

"We've had decades of gains since civil rights legislation was passed," Libowsky said. "We're concerned that hard-fought gains that we've made would be lost, just because we now read on a computer screen what we used to read in a newspaper."

Here's some of the juicy language: ""Ladies please rent from me." "African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won't work out." "Requirements: Clean Godly Christian Male."

Unfortunately for the lawyers, it appears that the law is fairly well-settled that providers like Craigslist are not liable for the postings of their users. Borland explains:

The case taps into what has been a controversial legal question since the early days of the Internet but that has almost always been decided in favor of Internet companies.

Unlike newspapers or magazines, Internet sites are often made up of content submitted wholly by visitors or readers, without any intervention by an editor. Courts and Congress have typically said that means the sites are shielded from traditional libel or copyright infringement liability, if they remove offending posts when notified.

In the broadest legal statement on the issue, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act

says in part 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."