Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co.

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Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., 1995 WL 323710 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995), was a 1995 US New York State Supreme Court legal decision which harmed online free speech by increasing the risk that online service providers would be found responsible for the acts of their customers, prompting increased caution on their part. The decision found that Prodigy was the publisher of the words of its subscribers because it had the capability to delete their messages. In effect, it overturned the 1991 Cubby v. CompuServe decision (a federal case that involved New York state law) which had suggested that the OSP would not be liable. The case was partly responsible for the free speech protection for ISPs which formed part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

The decision left service providers with difficult choices between using prior restraint on the speech of their customers, such as filtering messages before making them visible to others; accepting legal liability for things they didn't do themselves; or refraining from moderating even grossly inappropriate conduct so that the act of moderating in some situations didn't make them liable in others.


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