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Roommates.com, fair housing, and enabling free speech on the Net

Susan Crawford views with concern the court decision that says that Roommates.com has to abide by the fair housing law that forbids asking about sexual orientation, gender, whether you have children, etc. (See her previous post as well.) It’s not that Susan would like to see some good, old-fashioned discrimination back in the housing market. Rather, she’s concerned about the continued applicability of laws that protect Web sites from bad speech that occurs on them. She cites from a recent CDT/EFF amicus brief:

Broad Section 230(c) immunity fosters freedom of speech and the development of the Internet. Without broad immunity, interactive computer services would lack the freedom to structure their websites in any way they want and to solicit and encourage user-generated content. They would run a high risk of being treated as publishers of objectionable third-party content and face liability for it. Broad immunity has allowed the flexibility for the eBays, Amazons, MySpaces, and blogs of the world to create unique sites that encourage the sharing and development of content, information, and speech by their users.

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