Online Classifieds: Who Is Responsible?

Senior research fellow Ryan Calo talks to American Public Media's Marketplace about the Communications Decency Act and website liability when it comes to user-generated content:

The Village Voice's is being sued by an underage girl who was pimped out via the classifieds website. But the Communications Decency Act says that websites are protected from liability from what users post.


Kai Ryssdal: It's the rare media company that can afford to give up advertising revenue in this day and age, but that is what's being asked of the Village Voice. Attorneys general from 21 states have asked the Voice's to drop its adult services section. A couple of weeks ago Craigslist closed its adult section. The government's not getting the same kind of cooperation this time.


Ryan Calo is with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Ryan Calo: It's pretty clear that the courts have spoken on this issue and there's no legal recourse. A website like will not be held responsible for what users do on the website.

Calo says ending the adult services ads might backfire.

Calo: It may be harder to police, to the extent that it's harder for law enforcement to set up traps, it's harder for the websites themselves to monitor for illegal content. It may make the situation worse.