FOSTA Doesn’t Help Pro Se Litigant’s Defamation Claim Against Facebook

This is a typical pro se defamation lawsuit against Facebook. The plaintiff claims that other Facebook users defamed him in a Facebook group. The court treats this as an easy Section 230 case. The court applies the standard three-part test for a Section 230(c)(1) defense:

1) Facebook is an ICS provider (cites to Sikhs for Justice and Fraley). Mark Zuckerberg get lumped into this bucket too.

2) Third party content. “Igbonwa alleges that the offensive posts were by other Facebook users and does not allege that Facebook had any role in creating the content of the posts.”

3) Publisher/Speaker Claims:

all of Igbonwa’s claims turn on the theory that Defendants wrongfully permitted third parties to post defamatory and threatening statements about him and refused to remove the content or provide Igbonwa with the information he needed to pursue claims against the individuals directly. The harm he alleges though (injury to his reputation and being subject to harassment and death threats) is the result of the content of the posts, not the mere fact that Defendants permitted third parties to post statements about Igbonwa. Because Igbonwa can only establish causation of harm on his claims based on the content of the messages that were posted, the Court concludes that all of his claims treat Defendants as publishers

This appears to be the same line of argumentation that has been explored in the social media/”material support for terrorist” claims.

The court grants dismissal without leave to amend, except for a narrow claim to try to identify the original posters.

The case’s only mildly interesting twist came when the plaintiff noted that FOSTA’s preamble of FOSTA said that it amended Section 230 for sex trafficking and “other purposes,” and he claims this “other purposes” language opened up the door to his lawsuit. It’s the kind of argument we only see from pro ses, and it goes nowhere:

The Court rejects Igbonwa’s reliance on vague language in the preamble of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 in support of the argument that CDA immunity does not apply to his claims. Although there is vague language in the preamble that refers to “the enforcement against providers and users of interactive computer services of … criminal and civil law relating to sexual exploitation of children or sex trafficking, and for other purposes,” Igbonwa points to nothing in the legislative history that suggests this language was intended to eliminate the immunity that is afforded providers of interactive computer services under the CDA outside of the context of sexual exploitation of children and sex trafficking. Therefore, the Court declines to adopt the broad reading of this law that Igbonwa advocates.

A predictable result, but still, good to know.

Case citation: Igbonwa v. Facebook, Inc., 2018 WL 4907632 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2018)

More SESTA/FOSTA-Related Posts:

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An Update on the Constitutional Court Challenge to FOSTA–Woodhull Freedom v. US (Guest Blog Post)
Indianapolis Police Have Been “Blinded Lately Because They Shut Backpage Down”
Constitutional Challenge Against FOSTA Filed–Woodhull v. US (Guest Blog Post)
Catching Up on FOSTA Since Its Enactment (A Linkwrap)
More Aftermath from the ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’
‘Worst of Both Worlds’ FOSTA Signed Into Law, Completing Section 230’s Evisceration
Backpage Loses Another Section 230 Motion (Again Without SESTA/FOSTA)–Florida Abolitionists v. Backpage
District Court Ruling Highlights Congress’ Hastiness To Pass ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’– Doe 1 v. Backpage
More on the Unconstitutional Retroactivity of ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’ (Guest Blog Post)
Senate Passes ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’ (Linkwrap)
Why FOSTA’s Restriction on Prostitution Promotion Violates the First Amendment (Guest Blog Post)
SESTA’s Sponsors Still Don’t Understand Section 230 (As They Are About to Eviscerate It)
Can the ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’ Be Salvaged? Perhaps…and You Can Help (URGENT CALL TO ACTION)
Congress Probably Will Ruin Section 230 This Week (SESTA/FOSTA Updates)
What’s New With SESTA/FOSTA (January 17, 2018 edition)
New House Bill (Substitute FOSTA) Has More Promising Approach to Regulating Online Sex Trafficking
* My testimony at the House Energy & Commerce Committee: Balancing Section 230 and Anti-Sex Trafficking Initiatives
How SESTA Undermines Section 230’s Good Samaritan Provisions
Manager’s Amendment for SESTA Slightly Improves a Still-Terrible Bill
Another Human Trafficking Expert Raises Concerns About SESTA (Guest Blog Post)
Another SESTA Linkwrap (Week of October 30)
Recent SESTA Developments (A Linkwrap)
Section 230’s Applicability to ‘Inconsistent’ State Laws (Guest Blog Post)
An Overview of Congress’ Pending Legislation on Sex Trafficking (Guest Blog Post)
The DOJ’s Busts of MyRedbook & Rentboy Show How Backpage Might Be Prosecuted (Guest Blog Post)
Problems With SESTA’s Retroactivity Provision (Guest Blog Post)
My Senate Testimony on SESTA + SESTA Hearing Linkwrap
Debunking Some Myths About Section 230 and Sex Trafficking (Guest Blog Post)
Congress Is About To Ruin Its Online Free Speech Masterpiece (Cross-Post)
Backpage Executives Must Face Money Laundering Charges Despite Section 230–People v. Ferrer
How Section 230 Helps Sex Trafficking Victims (and SESTA Would Hurt Them) (guest blog post)
Sen. Portman Says SESTA Doesn’t Affect the Good Samaritan Defense. He’s Wrong
Senate’s “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017”–and Section 230’s Imminent Evisceration
The “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” Bill Would Be Bad News for Section 230
WARNING: Draft “No Immunity for Sex Traffickers Online Act” Bill Poses Major Threat to Section 230
The Implications of Excluding State Crimes from 47 U.S.C. § 230’s Immunity