Here’s an apparently sad case that has recently surfaced: Millogo v. Buck.
An individual – apparently a law student and immigrant from C?te d’Ivoire on the west coast of Africa – has filed a defamation lawsuit pro se (without a lawyer) in federal court against Google (owner and operator of the Blogger platform) and one individual defendant.
Santa Clara law professor Eric Goldman posted the complaint on Scribd, and the story was picked up by TechDirt. The thrust of the TechDirt piece is some mild ridicule aimed at the plaintiff, Indianapolis resident Arsene E. Millogo, for being deficient in his understanding of the law. TechDirt writes:
[T]he inclusion of Google in the lawsuit is the odd part … As Goldman (who teaches cyberlaw) notes, perhaps this student should take a cyberlaw class, in order to better understand liability and safe harbors, such as Section 230 when it comes to defamation claims.
I have three observations:
- Assuming Millogo was, as he claims, the victim of a smear campaign by some spiteful person, why pile on with insults about his lack of knowledge of cyberlaw? That seems needless.
- The TechDirt piece makes it seem as if Eric Goldman is piling on with the taunting, and, having read all of what Goldman wrote on Scribd, I don’t think that’s how Goldman intended his remarks. The fact is, if Millogo hopes to prosecute his lawsuit successfully, knowledge of the relevant law would of course be helpful.
- The court papers do not actually depict Millogo as ignorant of the law. It is not obvious that 47 U.S.C. §230 will shield Google from liability for defamation. It is true that §230 immunity has been broadly construed by most appellate courts, but the state of the law in the 7th Circuit, where Millogo has filed, seems less than entirely settled. Moreover, the 7th Circuit has at least twice expressed its skepticism of construing §230 to provide broad immunity.