Roommates.com

ROOMMATES.COM….This is interesting. In an 8-3 ruling, the 9th Circuit Court has ruled that Roommates.com is breaking the law:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Thursday that a website may be found liable for violating fair housing laws by matching roommates according to gender, sexual orientation and parenthood.

….”A real estate broker may not inquire as to the race of a prospective buyer, and an employer may not inquire as to the religion of a prospective employee,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority. “If such questions are unlawful when posed face-to-face by telephone, they don’t magically become lawful when asked electronically online.”

….Thursday’s majority said Roommates.com differed from the other sites because it was not a mere passive conduit of information. Site users are required to select from drop-down menus whether they want to live with “straight or gay” males, only with “straight” males, only with “gay” males or with “no males,” the court said.

I haven’t thought about this enough to really have an opinion about it, and I have no idea if it will be upheld or reversed on appeal. But it’s yet another indication that the web triumphalists of the 90s, who were convinced that the internet was a special little playground immune from the dead hand of plodding real-world governments, were wrong. That never made any more sense than the notion that the web would put plodding old multinational corporations out of business either, but there you go. Turns out the plodders still have some life left in them after all.