SocraticGadfly: SCOTUS sort-out seems looming in Web housing ads

April 05, 2008

SCOTUS sort-out seems looming in Web housing ads

A federal appellate court has ruled cannot require users to disclose their sexual orientation.
To inquire electronically about sexual orientation would not be different from asking people in person or by telephone if they were black or Jewish before conducting business, the panel said in an 8-3 ruling that partly overturns a lower federal court decision.

“If such screening is prohibited when practiced in person or by telephone, we see no reason why Congress would have wanted to make it lawful to profit from it online,” 9th Circuit chief judge Alex Kozinski wrote. “Not only does Roommate ask these questions, Roommate makes answering the discriminatory questions a condition of doing business.” …

“Where it is very clear that the Web site directly participates in developing the alleged illegality — as it is clear here with respect to Roommate’s questions, answers and the resulting profile pages — immunity will be lost.”

I agree. I agree 110 percent both personally, and as a newspaper editor.

As I’ve blogged before, including about a contrary court ruling I’ll describe below, websites that are the functional equivalent of newspaper classified ads ought to have to abide by the same legal standards.

And, the plaintiffs in this case made that same argument:
The Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley and the Fair Housing Council of San Diego filed suit against the Web site, claiming it violated the Fair Housing Act and various state laws.

Again, I agree both personally and professionally.


Last month, another appellate court upheld a district court ruling saying that Craigslist could, in essence, do the same thing by running ads that let people say things such as “No Minorities.”

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who originally dismissed the case, ruled that Craigslist serves as an intermediary party, not a publisher. The 7th Circuit upheld her ruling on the same grounds.

Well, that directly conflicts with the ruling.

No comments: