Judge Can’t Decide if Facebook’s User Agreement is a Browsewrap, But He Enforces It Anyways–Fteja v. Facebook
By Eric Goldman
Fteja v. Facebook, Inc.,2012 WL 183896 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2012). Fteja’s initial “complaint” (filed as an order to show cause).
If I could wave a magic wand, I’d retire the phrases “clickwrap” and “browsewrap.” Those terms trace their lineage to a radically different technology–plastic shrinkwrap on physical products–and, as a result, they never developed clean or precise definitions in the online world. This opinion is much more prolix than necessary because the court couldn’t figure out what either term meant and therefore couldn’t decide how to apply the precedent. Fortunately, the court gets to the right place eventually.
Fteja claims that Facebook terminated his Facebook account improperly because it discriminated against him as a Muslim. Facebook will win this lawsuit eventually; see, e.g., my paper about online user account terminations and 47 USC 230(c)(2) and Young v. Facebook.
Yet, the judge launches into an extended discourse about the philosophy of online contracts. Overly troubled by the hyperlinked presentation of the actual terms, the court reaches this awkward classification:
The judge then snarks about social media exceptionalism:
it is tempting to infer from the power with which the social network has revolutionized how we interact that Facebook has done the same to the law of contract that has been so critical to managing that interaction in a free society. But not even Facebook is so powerful.
(Don’t underestimate Facebook, your honor. It is changing our brains).
Despite all the navel-gazing, the judge realizes:
Having convinced himself that Facebook’s venue selection clause is enforceable, the judge then concludes that transfer is proper. All of the relevant evidence is at Facebook’s headquarters, Fteja’s witnesses don’t appear to be near NYC, the alleged contract breach means the “locus of operative facts” took place in California, and Fteja’s medical condition (“Ménière’s disease”) won’t keep him off airplanes.
Some related posts: