Supreme Court denies online dating service petition

TEXAS — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition from an online dating service angry with a University of Texas policy that blocked it from sending thousands of unsolicited e-mails.

In denying the petition, the Court let stand a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said the university’s policy did not violate the constitutional rights of White Buffalo Ventures, which operates, when it blocked all e-mails from the company’s IP address in 2003.

Because the Supreme Court refused to hear White Buffalo’s petition, the case is over and the university can maintain its policy.

White Buffalo Ventures sued the school saying the policy was pre-empted by the federal anti-spam law, CAN-SPAM, and that the policy violated the First Amendment.

The 5th Circuit denied both contentions by White Buffalo in August. In denying the First Amendment claim, the court decided that the school’s policy furthered a substantial interest when blocking specific e-mails, saving time for the system’s users. The court also found that the university was filling the role of an Internet service provider and was exempt from the CAN-SPAM law’s pre-emption provision.

The appeals court declined to determine whether the university’s e-mail system was a public or private forum. That determination could have had an impact on whether or not the university could censor or restrict e-mails from individual students.

White Buffalo had received e-mail addresses for the university community after filing a Public Information Act request in February 2003 and started sending e-mails in April 2003, according to court documents.

After receiving complaints about the e-mails, the school issued a cease and desist letter to White Buffalo, but the company refused to comply and the university subsequently blocked the company’s IP address from being able to send e-mails to university accounts, according to court documents.

by Evan Mayor, SPLC staff writer