Say that you're on a toxic online forum and you know that the community is anonymous and that everyone bashes everyone, and you've agreed to the terms of use which state that the owner of the forum is not responsible for any emotional distress/slander you acquired during the bashing. Could the site's owner or the anonymous members be subject of your (possible) lawsuit ?

1 Answer 1


The site's owners would likely be immune from any civil action based on its users' conduct, under Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act:

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.

The users, though, could still face liability. Although it would be libel rather than slander (because it is published rather than spoken), any damaging falsehoods could be actionable. The emotional distress component would also be a possibility, but it would probably be a tougher case. The laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally speaking an emotional-distress case requires really outrageous behavior and and very serious emotional damage.

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    How could it be libel, since OP said the community is anonymous, unless somehow the harassers found out OP's real name and posted it? Commented May 31, 2018 at 4:36
  • That's a good point. Still, I'm assuming that the "anonymous" means that people don't use their government names, not that they have no identity within that network. I'd expect that on SE, for example, that even though "pacoverflow" is not your real name, it would still be possible to libel you by spreading lies that undermine your reputation in the SE community. It would be a tougher case with lower damages, but I think you could still bring it.
    – bdb484
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 12:27

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