The federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, in what is commonly referred to as “Section 230,” absolves from liability the “provider” of “an interactive computer service” when the plaintiff uses a theory of liability that “treat[s]” the provider “as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) and (e)(3) (Oct. 1998). The law in this area has been evolving, but, as at least one commentator has noted, operators of websites with online classifieds have been relatively successful with their use of Section 230 as a shield from liability.
Daniel v. Armslist, No. 2017AP344 (Wis. Ct. App. Apr. 19, 2018), a recent decision issued by District I of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, written by Judge Brian Blanchard of District IV, is a notable exception. The court held that the defendant Armslist LLC, which operated Armslist.com, a website with classifieds for private-firearms sales, could be held liable for tort claims filed by the family of a mass-shooting victim. Section 230, according to the court, did not “protect a website operator from liability that arises from its own conduct in facilitating user activity.” Id. ¶ 3.