Libel and Defamation

Libel (a form of defamation) is written communication that includes false claims that may harm an individual, company, group, or entity.

As an online service provider, DreamHost is not in a position to judge the merits of what its customers state on their own web sites. As such, DreamHost does not censor or otherwise assert editorial control over the content on its sites. DreamHost does indeed host sites that some (including DreamHost) may find offensive, but DreamHost wishes to make it very clear that just because a site is hosted here does not mean that DreamHost condones its content or has anything to do with the production of that content.

FAQs

There are a number of common questions and misunderstandings that people have about libel/defamation. The following addresses some of these common questions.

How can I make sure I am not violating the law?

The first thing to remember is that anybody can sue anyone else for any reason. Whether or not they are in the right or will ultimately win may not matter if they bankrupt you in the process. So, if there is even a chance that you will incur the wrath of someone you are writing about you should keep this in mind.

When it comes to libel/defamation, though, the best defense is the truth. Make sure that opinions are clearly labeled as such, that you are not spreading false information, and that you can demonstrate the truth of whatever you say. If you have any question as to whether or not your words would be considered libelous and result in liability for you, it's recommend that you consult with a qualified attorney.

Someone is slandering me—What can I do?

In the context of a website, it's pretty unlikely that someone is actually slandering you. Slander is different than libel in that it involves untrue statements made vocally, not in written form. The only way someone could slander you via their web site would be if they recorded themselves doing so and posted the recording on their site.

I don't like what what I read on a DreamHost-hosted website—Can I sue DreamHost?

As the host of tens of thousands of web sites and as a company residing in a rather litigious country, DreamHost receives this threat pretty often (so often that it has long since stopped being "scary"). Why? A cursory glance at the law will show that online service providers such as DreamHost are not liable for the speech of its customers' web sites.

This is for good reason—web hosts are unable to judge the veracity of their customers' speech, nor are they the ones actually engaging in that speech. Were the law structured differently, web hosts may very well shy away from hosting important (but controversial and disliked by somebody) sites—even those who are ethically in the right.

The legal reasoning for this is as follows: The Communications Decency Act enacted by Congress in 1996 specifically grants legal immunity to online service providers for the content of their customers' web sites:

"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

This law has since been upheld in a number of federal and state cases, including Blumenthal v. Drudge, Zeran v. America Online, Inc., Scheider v. Amazon.com, Inc., Jane Doe v. America Online, Inc., and Barrett v. Fonorow.

For this reason, DreamHost asks that you address your concerns directly with the creator of the content you are concerned about.

See also

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