The Huffington Post moved yesterday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by a Panama-based lawyer, arguing that the site is an "interactive computer service provider" and can't be held liable for third-party content.
Juan Carlos Noriega sued The Huffington Post in December in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Noriega claimed he'd had nothing to do with an article posted on the site in August under his name, and that the company had wrongfully refused to take it down.
The Huffington Post argued in its motion to dismiss (PDF) yesterday that it was immune to Noriega's claims under the federal Communications Decency Act. Even if The Huffington Post contributed to editing or promoting the post in any way, the media company argued that it's protected as long as a third-party provided the actual content.
Even if Noriega's claims weren't barred by the Communications Decency Act, The Huffington Post also argued that he failed to make a legitimate claim for defamation. The blog at issue, called "The Primacy of the Rule of Law," offered commentary on the prosecution of a Pakistani doctor who reportedly aided U.S. officials in tracking down Osama Bin Laden through a sham vaccination program.
The blog wasn't defamatory to Noriega on its face, The Huffington Post argued. Noriega claimed that the blog falsely tied him to anti-U.S. government sentiments, but The Huffington Post countered that there was nothing in the blog implying anti-U.S. views and that they didn't make Noriega appear "odious, infamous, and ridiculous" under the law.
"Under any plain and fair reading, the Blog Post presents a thoughtful discussion on a serious issue of public interest on which reasonable people of good conscience could disagree," The Huffington Post argued. "It simply cannot be that attribution of these views to a person is defamatory on its face."
The motion didn't address the issue of whether Noriega actually authored the blog.
Noriega, a name partner at Panama-based Arias, Abrego, Lopez & Noriega, according to his complaint, is suing for $3 million in damages, a full retraction, and an investigation into who created an account with The Huffington Post using his name. He is being represented by Patton Boggs' Benjamin Chew, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Huffington Post is being represented by Katherine Fallow, Maya Song and Michael DeSanctis of Jenner & Block.
The case is before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle.