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Craigslist Cleared in Discrimination Lawsuit

Should Websites Be Liable For Discrimination?

A federal appeals court recently ruled that Craigslist would not be held liable for discriminatory ads posted on its site. The lawsuit was brought forth over two years ago, because of housing ads that discriminated against minorities and religion. Though Craigslist was cleared last week as not being responsible, this is another case we've seen lately where a website that has hosted something incendiary or illegal, and we've been forced to question who's to blame. MySpace, in particular, has been under fire — we asked whether it was their fault at all in Megan Meier's case, or Kristin Helms' case.

Websites themselves can either rely on user-policing (like Craigslist's flagging policy) or hope that their terms of use are not violated, but I think it's only a matter of time that these sites are asked to crack down and be more involved. Newspapers running classifieds, for instance, take pains to avoid publishing discriminatory ads, so shouldn't Craigslist be held to similar standards? These sites are no longer small companies, so lack of resources is not a viable excuse anymore. What do you think?

Join The Conversation
tmmkitten tmmkitten 9 years
web sites are only as good as the people who use them; a bad group of people being discriminatory can really hurt a web site. but this ignores all the situations and people who don't discriminate and engage in racist or bigoted behavior. i think it should be up to the people who use it to use their best judgment and flag any listings or accounts that are inappropriate. if they use a site, i would think they would want to help maintain a certain reputation. it shouldn't be required by law. i don't really think legal action would do anything but complicate the site needlessly for those who host and use the services, endangering the ability to have that service being used at all.
duplinger duplinger 9 years
No because then you would have to screen all sites and being that the web is used all over the world what might be discriminating to some might not be to others, it should be up to each individual site to deal with the consequences of the content of their sites positive or negative.
dali137 dali137 9 years
Sites should have a review and report function in place. And whoever wrote above that the web is not governed by the United States better get there facts straight.
remedios remedios 9 years
If Grokster and company can be held liable for the illegal distribution of media that infringes copyright, this is very similar. That being said, I think the decision to hold Grokster liable was a mistake, so I think Craigslist should also not be liable.
PinkLizzie PinkLizzie 9 years
Whatever happened to holding people responsible for their own actions? Craigslist is a service, and it's the people who misuse it who should be held accountable for their discriminatory ads. For things like housing, landlords often discriminate in person. When looking for houses in undergrad, you can bet my girlfriends and I had an easier time finding a willing landlord than groups of guys who were looking.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
I think huge companies like Craigslist should take some responsibility for posting discriminatory housing ads. They have more than enough resources to scour their ads the way ebay does and reject illegal ones. Its one thing to have a blog where you can just say whatever the hell you want but when your bringing in incredible resources/money and providing services to enable people to find housing then there's no excuse or you shouldn't be offering the service.
Eternity Eternity 9 years
While I personally do not support discrimination overall, the web is universal and not governed by the United States, therefore if a webmaster wants to discriminate against its audience, or target a specific market, or allow discimination via something like a job or apartment ad, then so be it. If I could have requested responsible, non smoking, female grad students between 26-35 with no children to rent my house, I would have. It would have saved me the damage done by my current tenant's 8 year old monster.
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