The trickle of Ashley Madison-related misery continues, including another reported suicide, as do the misguided attempts to stop it. The latest example comes via a lawsuit that claims Amazon and GoDaddy are partly responsible for the fallout from the huge data breach.
In a proposed class action case filed in Arizona, three users of the adultery site claim Amazon (AMZN) and GoDaddy (GDDY) are to blame for receiving “stolen property” and infliction of emotional distress. The allegations stem from the fact these companies host websites where people can pay to search the millions of names released in last month’s data breach. (I’m not going to name those websites, but you can find them listed in the complaint embedded below, via Techdirt).
The plaintiffs are only identified as anonymous “John Does” of California, New Jersey, and Maryland. They claim GoDaddy and Amazon, along with the websites offering the search tools, are responsible for damages of at least $3 million.
Leaving aside the legal and moral case against the website operators, the allegations against GoDaddy and Amazon appear far-fetched. All the companies are doing is offering the same web-hosting service that is available to millions of other websites. Accusing them of wrong-doing is a bit like blaming the power company for an offensive neon sign.
Fortunately, a well-known U.S. law provides a clear shield for Amazon and GoDaddy. The law, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, protects web hosts and other intermediaries from being held responsible for activities of their users. The companies should have little trouble using the law to get the claims, which are mostly based on California state law, dismissed in short order.
A GoDaddy spokesperson said the company has not been served and does not comment on impending litigation. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit is just the latest in a series of legal fallouts related to the hacking incident. Others include a class action suit against Ashley Madison itself as well as copyright threats by the adultery site against Twitter users who reported on the data breach. (As I’ve argued before, the copyright claims are plainly unfounded, and Ashley Madison should be punished for invoking them.)
And, in the latest incident, the former CTO of the company is threatening a libel suit against respected security blogger Brian Krebs for reporting on Ashley Madison’s alleged hacking of rival websites. Krebs has refused to back down.
For more on what might happen next, here are Fortune Live folks talking about the company’s CEO resigning:
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