Appeals Court Overturns Decision on in a Win For Free Speech

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today in Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment, a case in which the ACLU filed an amicus brief alongside other organizations urging the Sixth Circuit to reverse a lower court’s decision holding a website and its editor accountable for defamatory posts submitted by the website’s users. (Here is our prior blog post explaining the case, and the website itself,

The lower court had held that by “encouraging” negative content, the website could be held liable when its users went beyond critical and posted something unlawful. We argued this result was wrong and very dangerous for all kinds of valuable online speech, including online reviews and other consumer-driven sites. Think, for example, of a consumer protection website that encourages users to submit reports of defective products, or a website where users can share stories about companies filing aggressive “take-down” letters demanding that speech be removed from the internet.

Our amicus reminded the court to remember the incredible public value in this kind of negative or critical speech; it’s certainly not something you’re going to get from the companies themselves. And it’s only if websites offer platforms for this kind of critical speech that consumers can speak, listen, and connect to get this kind of information.

Today, the Sixth Circuit, in a “case of first impression in this Circuit,” agreed with our arguments, and recognized the importance of websites that allow and even encourage “critical” content. The court noted:

Some of this content will be unwelcome to others—e.g., unfavorable reviews of consumer products and services, allegations of price gouging, complaints of fraud on consumers, reports of bed bugs, collections of cease-and-desist notices relating to online speech….Under an encouragement test of development, these websites would lose the immunity under the CDA and be subject to hecklers’ suits aimed at the publisher.

The Sixth Circuit’s opinion rightly recognizes the essential value of user-submitted online speech, including critical speech that helps consumers and reviewers connect and share their experiences. Today’s decision reaffirms the importance of that speech to a free and robust internet, and ensures that websites can offer spaces for community criticism without risking constant litigation over the comments of its users.

View comments (4)
Read the Terms of Use


I'm just waiting for the day to come when you start giving people the right to outright threaten to visit physical violence on your personal body.
If someone threatens violence on me, the next thing I'M going to do is tell authorities and I don't give a hoo-honkin DAMN about their so-called "freedom of speech."
People threaten to shoot me all the time because I want prevention of gun VIOLENCE; I never say anything at ALL about gun OWNERship. They all just decide that they're going to abandon their own brains and believe every filthy lie the NRA bullshit MOUTHpiece says. It's not my fault if they decide to REact instead of THINKing before they speak. But the NRA goes way out of their way to TRY to make this schism in understanding occur. Because they're less noble than pond scum.
In the case of people who want to take gun control to extremes, people can say anything they want, but I'm not one of those people. I lived in a family with someone who was a hunter and has had firearms for over 35 years. I don't believe in banning them to him or anyone else like him, but I think there's such a thing as the wrong person having a gun and people like Adam Lanza and psychotic company are it. And they must also believe it at least a little or they wouldn't always mention that "people kill people" which is exactly the same as saying "not all people deserve a firearm."

I don't believe threatening to kill someone and then telling the person how you're going to do it is "free speech." I believe it's taking the first step in the act of committing a crime.
But for the record, I prefer to keep all the filth of away from kids, and how can you really do that if it's all out there for anybody to see.
Parental controls are a joke. Everyone in my family knows how to turn it off or bypass it. I have lots of friends who say their kids found a way around Parental Controls, so I'm not the only concerned person.

Gerald Grenier, Jr

Anonymous, death threats aren't free speech if there is a credible ability to carry it out, it is assault.


Racism misogynist website full of malware and viruses supported by ACLU.

Thanks for standing with Nazis yet again.

Can't you pick better fights?


Once again the fight against cyber bullying is lost. The primary content of The Dirty is false accusations being made by bullies against their victims.

Stay Informed