LitaWrites (real_lawyer) wrote,

Wanted: Young Man, Single & Free!

I frequently tell clients to utilize one of the most effective and free on-line sites to sell or rent their home:  Craigslist (  Skip all the chance encounters and even racier rendezvous, and you have a highly efficient advertising arena that carries over 2 million housing ads per year.

A lot of real estate agents use Craigslist, but many detest its accessibility and its lack of accountability to either a licensing agency or any other entity charged with eliminating housing discrimination.

In the Chicago area alone, over 200,000 housing ads were posted to Craigslist in a six month period , and the Illinois anti-(housing )discrimination committee sued the site over 100 allegedly discriminatory ads which used phrases such as "no minorities," "apt. too small for families with small children," and "only Muslims apply", arguing these words constituted violations of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA makes it illegal to "make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin."

Craigslist cited the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) in its defense. That act contains a provision which says, "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 CDA does not specifically mention fair housing issues, but it does contain examples referencing intellectual property and privacy laws.  They also stated, in their defense, that “Craigslist takes serious measures to educate its contributors about fair housing laws,,, and it encourages its users to ‘flag’ offending ads as prohibited, and it provides sources where the offenses can be reported”

The court sided with Craig and his List (yes, he exists):  the site is a CDA protected provider of interactive computer services.

What that means is that Craigslist cannot be sued for ads that read:  “Only limber white women will be considered” or “if you wear a head wrap don’t apply”.  But if you place the ad and someone from the housing task force comes to see the place wearing a head wrap and you don’t treat her or him fairly, you can still be found liable for discrimination in housing.
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