Does anyone know of insurance companies in the USA that offer business liability insurance for companies that run forums? I just tried to get a policy at the Hartford but they won't insure forums because of the unpredictable nature of user submitted content.
The first thing is to get a good T & C which disclaims your responsibilty. However I understand that in may jurisdictions any owner of a moderated forum, however lightly moderated, is at risk of being held responsible purely because the forum is moderatable.
There was some kind of a legal test case on this, I'll try to find it.
My understanding was that prior to the section 230 of the CDA, doing any moderation could get you into trouble because then you became more of a "publisher" (i.e. responsible for the content) rather than just a carrier (which is not responsible, just as UPS won't generally be held responsible for copyrighted materials shipped via their services). The authors of the CDA were concerned that internet service providers wouldn't police porn on their sites because of this, so they added sweeping language into the CDA to protect us from responsibility even if we do moderate:
Unlike the more controversial anti-indecency provisions which were later ruled unconstitutional,  this portion of the Act remains in force and allows ISPs and other service providers to restrict customers' actions without fear of being found legally liable for the actions that are allowed. The act was passed in part in reaction to the 1995 decision in Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., which suggested that service providers who assumed an editorial role with regard to customer content, thus became publishers, and legally responsible for libel and other torts committed by customers. This act was passed to specifically enhance service providers' ability to delete or otherwise monitor content without themselves becoming publishers.
[As a side note, just for fun, it looks like the important 1995 case, mentioned above, involved Stratton Oakmont, the pump and dump boiler room featured in the recent Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street. I guess someone called Stratton Oakmont out on a Prodigy board and Prodigy got sued. Section 230 of the CDA was designed to prevent things like that. The internet was super hot and congress didn't want the legal system to have a chilling effect on the internet boom in the US]
Anyway, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not offering legal advice, but my understanding is that section 230 offers some pretty strong protection. Clearly, as Slavik mentions, you'll want to take reasonable actions such as responding to requests.
Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Did I goof up any of my facts?
Also, what about international concerns? I've been talking about US law, but I have no idea about other countries. Is this stupid of me? Do we have to worry about suits that originate in other countries where the laws are different?
Based on the first quote above, the test doesn't seem to be whether the forum is moderatable, but rather whether it is, in fact, moderated either before content appears or shortly thereafter. Perhaps claims regarding whether the site is moderated may also be taken into account.
After all, one could argue that all websites are "moderatable" in that in the end the owners have control over the code. As long as we control the code, it is just a question of how much time and money we are accountable for investing in moderation. If a country held all sites responsible for all UGC infractions, most UGC would grind to a halt.
My sister who is an IP attorney has been begging me to get BLI. She always tells me that anyone can sue for any reason. If they have big pockets or if I do slip up somehow, I personally or my business could go down the tank in the blink of an eye.