Adam Wins… A Free Lesson In How Section 230 Protects Service Providers

from the adam-doesn't-win-this-time dept

800notes is one of those sites that gets even more bogus legal threats than we do. The site which lets its users track and discuss telemarketers recently received a threat from a lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, representing a guy named Adam Meyer, who sells some sort of “Adam Wins” sports betting thing. Not surprisingly, the 800Notes page for “Adam Wins” has a number of comments, many of which are from people who are not fans of Adam or his telemarketing. Adam’s lawyer, Hirschhorn, mistakenly threatened the site 800Notes with defamation for the comments on those pages. Of course, as is well established in both the statute and in the case law, 800Notes is protected from liability on the comments of its users thanks to both Section 230 of the CDA and basic common sense about who’s legally liable for statements.

800Notes’ operator, Julia Forte, who’s been through this plenty of times before, responded to Hirschhorn with a quick primer on the law, which you would think he would know seeing as he’s a lawyer and a proud, past president of the “First Amendment Lawyers Association.” Forte, in her email, also pointed out that if Hirschhorn decided to sue, that 800Notes “will fight back,
will win, and you will be responsible for our legal fees.” Hirschhorn responded mockingly to Forte, noting: “I presume with your confident attitude you must have graduated at the bottom of your class from a third world law school…. No lawyer I know worth his/her weight would ever guarantee a win (you just did) as I have learned in my 43 years of practicing law there are far too many variables.”

Paul Levy, representing 800Notes then called Hirschhorn to explain the law to him… only to have Hirschhorn abruptly hang up on him:


I then called Hirschhorn myself to try to discuss the law with him and to give him the names of cases from both the Florida Supreme Court and federal trial and appellate courts in Florida that support the immunity of Forte’s company; I also hoped to explain the Dendrite process to him so that, assuming he could prove falsity and damages, he could pursue the anonymous posters if that was his client’s choice. Hirschhorn bragged that he is not just a member but the founder of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, but acknowledged that he himself did not know anything about the law in this area; instead, he said, he hires others who know the law to help him. But when I suggested that Forte?s confidence in the immunity of her hosting company is justified, and tried to explain where the law is on this topic, he abruptly hung up the phone.

Much more amusing, as Levy notes, is the fact that for all his talk about how Forte shouldn’t have “guaranteed” a win, Hirschhorn’s own website appears to promise that he will “acquit” everyone who cannot properly spell acquit, in that it is at aquitall.com. Again, as Levy notes this website:


[This domain] could be interpreted as a claim that he always obtains acquittals in all his criminal-defense cases (it also may suggest that he hopes to appeal to clients who can’t spell).  The domain name may, in fact, violate the Florida Bar’s advertising rules, which forbid lawyers to promise results; the Florida Bar has applied such restrictions to Internet domain names.  Public Citizen has challenged those rules under the First Amendment; we have also brought First Amendment challenges against similar advertising restrictions in other states like New York and Louisiana

I get the feeling that Adam isn’t winning this time.

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Companies: 800notes.com

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Comments on “Adam Wins… A Free Lesson In How Section 230 Protects Service Providers”

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18 Comments
That Anonymous Cowardsays:

I think what I found the most disturbing was he has no idea how this area of the law works, but whipped up a nastygram before even seeing if his client had a case.

While his client can tell him to sue, sue, sue isn’t there something… oh whats that word…. oh… ethics in not just taking a clients money when you have no idea what your doing?

But much like the need for penalties for bogus DMCA takedowns, there seems to be nothing to stop shady lawyers from being shady.

Anonymoussays:

In my personal experience most attorneys will lead you to believe that anything is possible even if they know for sure it is not. I set out to prove this once asking many attorneys for advice on a legal matter where I already knew I had no legal standing. Almost all of them were willing to take the case for a fee. When confronted one of them was down right offended and resorted to name calling and other childish behavior. Guys like that are what gives attorneys such a bad reputation. I avoid them like the plague.

Erick Hopkinssays:

what federal law trumps the other?

800notes.com stands behind the Communications Decency Act, however, Juile Forte draws direct profit from the ads on her website. If ‘someone’ posts a comment or thread on 800notes.com about a company, that thread will show up on Google, Aol, Yahoo!, and many other search engines. If I wanted to find out about a company by using Google, I would see a ‘bad review’ on 800notes.com and of course who would’nt click on it. Now we have the thread along with a bunch of ads. If someone clicks on that ad, guess who gets paid?? Ms. Forte!! What happens if the company that is listed is trademarked? How can she profit from another company’s Trademark? Or does her allowed use of another’s Trademark to lure a potential customer to her own website, which she profits from directly, constitute fair use? I don’t believe that Service Providers are immune from Trademark law? She has direct control over the content if she has the ability to delete content… I feel bad for the small companies listed on the site and the people who interprets the statements as fact, then clicks on the verizon ad or att ad because they just remembered they needed service renewal or just moved to a new home. Now that is sad. A person looking for a reliable company to do lawn work, found a ‘bad review’ and inaccurate information, and Ms. Forte gets paid. And the small business looses the potential account/revenue… Does anyone see what’s happening here?

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