Court Says Yahoo And Google Arent Liable For Gambling Ads - Monday 1st of December 2008

Its been really weird to see various politicians in the US go after online gambling in a variety of questionable ways, from Kentuckys attempt to seize domain names to the federal government forcing banks to block financial transactions for any gambling site. But one of the oddest moves has been to go after any publication that allowed online gambling ads to show up on their website. More than four years ago a bunch of websites, including Yahoo and Google were sued for allowing gambling ads to show up on searches. The two big search engines eventually settled with the federal government to try to block out gambling ads, but this particular lawsuit, based on California state law, continued.

It took a while, but a court has finally ruled that the search engines are protected by section 230 of the DMCA, and they arent responsible for ads posted by users -- even if they happen to get through the filters that Google and Yahoo set up to try to prevent gambling ads. There are a few important points to note here: (1) Just because the site is getting paid for the content, does not mean that section 230 safe harbors dont apply. We often hear people say that if a company is making money they must lose the safe harbors. Thats simply not true, (2) Just because the search engines proactively try to filter out the content, they dont lose the safe harbors either. In fact, in this case the judge seems even more sympathetic because of that. Theres a misconception out there among many that if you do meddle in the content at all, you give up your safe harbors. Again, thats not true.

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