Tradeloop's Member Blog And News: The Suprising Connection Between the Communications Decency Act & Tradeloop's Ethics Process

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Suprising Connection Between the Communications Decency Act & Tradeloop's Ethics Process

At first glance, it's hard to imagine anyone at Tradeloop getting excited about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. After all, we're a wholesale trading network, not a media company. But surprisingly, this statute plays an important role in the Ethics process by facilitating communication.

Because the statute gives Web site and blog owners legal protection from liability, we can provide a forum for customers to discuss disputes and exchange information about each other. Section 230 also gives us the authority to remove posts that seem deceptive, disruptive, or otherwise unproductive. This fairly recent change in the law means that we can use the Ethics process to encourage communication between members involved in disputes.

According the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Section 230 helps protect Web site and blog owners from lawsuits.
"Generally, anyone who repeats someone else's statements is just as responsible for their defamatory content as the original speaker—if they knew, or had reason to know, of the defamation. Recognizing the difficulty this would pose in the online world, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides a strong protection against liability for Internet "intermediaries" who provide or republish speech by others."
In Tradeloop's case, suppose a plaintiff were to file an Ethics complaint alleging that a defendant company knowingly sold counterfeit merchandise. The defendant company denies the charge and says it's defamatory. Furthermore, the defendant threatens to sue the plaintiff for making the accusation and Tradeloop for publishing it.

Both the terms of participation in the Ethics process and Section 230 protect Tradeloop from liability in this situation. Members can use our service to help resolve disputes, but they can't retaliate if they don't like the process or the results.

Of course, we strongly discourage any member from making unsupported negative statements or allegations about another member. However, the Ethics process will only work effectively if both parties to a dispute are able to discuss the issue and provide evidence to the committee. Some of that won't be complimentary: the nature of a dispute is that at least one party has something negative to say about another.

Participation in the Ethics process is a requirement for all Tradeloop members, but we want members to have the most positive experience possible if they're ever involved in a dispute. The Ethics committee works first to resolve disputes amicably – which happens often. Also, before filing or responding to a complaint, both parties have to agree to the terms of the "Dispute Resolution Process Participation Agreement." It describes the process and lists the obligations of all parties involved.

"Tradeloop has been at the forefront in putting energy and resources into thinking about and implementing these kinds of policies," says Kristen Mara Cichocki, of K. Mara Law, a Massachusetts-based law firm specializing in intellectual property and internet law. "A strong ethics policy and a progressive online dispute resolution system is key to ensuring a positive and successful online experience for both sellers and buyers, and Tradeloop delivers on that experience."

We can't guarantee that any member will enjoy the Ethics process or be happy with the outcome, but we are committed to making the process as fair and transparent as possible.

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