Click on the Menu for Fair Housing Act Violations
Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Roommate.com is not immune from housing discrimination claims based on preferences expressed by people who advertise on the site. Under federal law, a provider of "an interactive computer service" is not liable for material posted by customers, unless it participates in creating the material. A three-judge panel ruled that Roommate.com left itself open to liability by providing online forms that include options for prohibited preferences such as gender and sexual orientation. The case now goes back to the trial court, which will determine whether the service violated the Fair Housing Act.
Beyond the question of vicarious liability, as Eugene Volokh noted in a post Brian Doherty cited yesterday, is the stupidity of allowing people seeking roommates to discriminate but prohibiting them from stating their preferences. The 9th Circuit ruling is here. Katherine Mangu-Ward's reason article on the case is here.