Facebook Defeats Another Case Over Not Removing User Comments–La’Tiejira v. Facebook
In terms of legal doctrine, this case is virtually identical to the Cross v. Facebook case I recently blogged. In both cases, the plaintiff sued Facebook for not removing user posts. In both cases, Facebook won an anti-SLAPP motion (CA in Cross, TX in La’Tiejira) predicated on Section 230 and the plaintiff will be writing a check to Facebook. If you’re a Section 230 aficionado, this opinion is especially worth reading (despite its prolixity) because (1) it will be published in FSupp3d, and (2) it’s filled with lots of positive judicial statements about Section 230, its breadth, etc.
The plaintiff, Paree La’Tiejira, a/k/a “Lady Paree,” has been an adult entertainer. Apparently people have questioned her birth gender in the past. On La’Tiejira’s Facebook page, a Facebook user posted a comment accusing her of having been born male and saying some not-nice things. La’Tiejira said she complained to Facebook (though it’s unclear if she reported it through the right channels) and Facebook didn’t remove the comment for 6 months. The factual predicate sets up an easy Section 230 case.
To qualify for anti-SLAPP protection, Facebook had to establish that the case involved a matter of public concern. The court says: “The “communications” were also made “in connection with a matter of public concern” because communications about ‘public figures’ are matters of public concern. As noted, La’Tiejira considered herself a public figure based on her profession as an actress in the adult entertainment field who made substantial money in signings, photographs, club appearances dancing, adult video store appearances.”
On the merits, Facebook qualifies for Section 230 protection:
1) Facebook provides an ICS, citing Klayman, Caraccioli, Sikhs for Justice.
2) Facebook qualifies as a publisher/speaker because “all of La’Tiejira’s claims seek to hold the Facebook Defendants liable for decisions about the monitoring, screening, and deletion of user-generated content.”
3) The content came from a third party source because “offensive messages in dispute were allegedly authored by third-party Kyle Anders.” The fact that La’Tiejira allegedly notified Facebook of the offending post, and Facebook only took action months later, is immaterial to the immunity. Cites to Lycos and Dirty World.
La’Tiejira raised some unusual challenges to Section 230 that the court quickly rejects, including allegations of due process, full faith and credit, and access to courts violations.
Texas’ anti-SLAPP law has a mandatory attorneys’ fee provision, so the plaintiff will be paying a big bill for Facebook’s attorneys’ fees. [UPDATE: The plaintiff was ordered to pay $24k in fees plus a $5k sanction.]
Case citation: La’Tiejira v. Facebook, Inc., 2017 WL 3426039 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 7, 2017)