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Should Craigslist Be Responsible For Hoax Listings?

In a recent case, Craigslist was found to be not liable for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act because listings that were discriminatory for housing (gender, race, etc.) were posted by others, which meant that Craigslist was not the “author” of the listings.

But what about liability for ads that encourage others to engage in crimes? For example, an Oregon man had many of his belongings stolen from his home because some prankster posted two listings on Craigslist that essentially said that the house was abandoned and that anyone could come and take what they wanted. Even when the owner appeared on the scene to stop the theft, those who were there showed him copies of the listing, ignored him, and took stuff anyway until the police arrived.

My hunch is that this these hoaxes will continue until a prominent politician becomes a victim. At that point, you will start to see state or federal legislation passed that requires Craigslist and similar sites to impose rigid screening processes for listings. That’s a shame because it will fundamentally change what Craigslist is about. Too bad there are people evil enough to post these hoax listings and others stupid enough to use them as a reason to commit crimes.

Hat tip to

Mike Young, Esq.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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