Randy Picker (my college classmate, BTW, I’ll take whatever distantly-reflected glory I can get) posted this entry of the U of C law profs blog about a recent Seventh Circuit opinion in which Judge Easterbrook wrote an opinion holding that unlike a newspaper, Craigslist cannot be held liable for discriminatory housing ads posted on its site.
publish a “No Minorities Welcome” ad in the Chicago Tribune and the Trib violates the Fair Housing Act. But put the same ad on Craigslist and, at least in the Seventh Circuit, Craigslist faces no liability under the FHA given the protection given to it under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Randy’s first point is that this disadvantages newspapers, since they will be shut out of what he apparently believes to be a huge market for overtly discriminatory housing want ads. I’m not so sure about that one. But his second point goes to the real crux of the matter — “if discriminatory ads are offensive in newspapers, they should be offensive on Craigslist.” This seems right to me, but I’d be interested in hearing from all you younger, digital-generation lurkers out there — should online boards get a pass that their analog equivalents don’t because of the difficulty of monitoring content?