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The lawsuit, filed by a Chicago fair housing group in U.S. District Court last Friday, contends that Craigslist’s Chicago site distributed more than 100 ads that violated the federal Fair Housing Act by excluding prospective buyers or tenants on the basis of race, gender or religion.
Among the housing ads cited as objectionable by the Chicago Lawyers‘ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc. were ones that read „NO MINORITIES,“ „Requirements: Clean Godly Christian Male,“ and „Only Muslims apply.“
Craigslist hat natürlich die betreffenden Anzeigen herausgenommen. Doch das Problem liegt ganz woanders im Onlinebereich:
Craigslist, which has 19 employees, maintains that screening its almost-nonstop classified listings would be impossible. Jim Buckmaster, its chief executive officer, said Thursday that the system is automated and that users can flag postings. If enough do, it comes off automatically. The „NO MINORITIES“ ad was removed within two hours, he said.
Several Internet law experts said the suit seems likely to fail, citing a 1996 federal law that says an online service provider isn’t considered a publisher or a speaker when it merely passes along information provided by someone else. Jennifer Rothman, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, called it „a complete nonstarter“ despite legitimate concerns about discrimination. „Congress decided it was more important not to chill speech on the Internet and not to shut down these Internet providers,“ she said. „If you start holding them responsible, essentially you shut down the business.“