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Applying Offline Law Online

BY Michael Turk | Thursday, February 9 2006

The question of how to apply offline laws to the Internet has always been a topic of great debate. The discussion of whether to treat bloggers as journalists and protect them with shield laws took up much of last year. Controversy over the application of federal campaign finance laws to blogs sparked significant exchanges.

A new lawsuit may bring discrimination laws and the Internet together. At issue is whether Craigslist should be held responsible for housing posts that violate anti-discrimination laws. The site's housing ads are posted by users, and may not rise to the attention of editors unless their content is reported.

In the offline world, newspapers are not allowed to run housing ads that discriminate. Should those same rules apply to Craigslist? Even if it means he has to review ads before they go live - creating a significant administrative overhead?

It will be interesting to see what the courts do with this one.