The recipient of a defamatory e-mail who forwarded it to other parties with a brief introduction is protected from liability for defamation by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a panel of the California Court of Appeal ruled. The appeals court examined the ruling of the Ninth Circuit in Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.Com (9th Cir. 2008), and concluded that the proper test for whether the addition of material to an defamatory e-mail renders the forwarder an “information content provider” within the meaning of Section 230 is whether the additional material is a “material contribution” to the defamation contained in the message. The court concluded that the forwarder’s statements in the introduction, which suggested that the further recipients should read it and that “the truth will come out in the end,” did not materially contribute to the alleged defamation in the e-mail.

Phan v. Pham, 2010 Cal. App. LEXIS 239 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist. Feb. 25, 2010) Download PDF