Section 230 Protects Twitter’s Decision to Suspend User’s Account–Mezey v. Twitter
This decision is from July but just showed up in Westlaw. Mezey sued Twitter for suspending his account. The opinion doesn’t provide any background about the account or why Twitter suspended it. The court easily dismissed the lawsuit on Section 230 grounds. Here’s the court’s entire substantive analysis (paragraph breaks added):
First, Twitter—as a platform that transmits, receives, displays, organizes, and hosts content—is an interactive computer service. 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2) (defining interactive computer service as “any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet”); see Am. Freedom Defense Initiative v. Lynch, 217 F.Supp. 3d 100, 104 (D. D.C. 2016) (Twitter is interactive computer service under the CDA); see also Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 753 F.3d 1354, 1357–58 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (Facebook is interactive computer service under the CDA).
Second, Plaintiff is the information content provider as he created the relevant content associated with his Twitter account. See Sikhs for Justice “SFJ,” Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., 697 F. App’x 526, 526–27 (9th Cir. 2017) (creator of Facebook page is “information content provider” under the CDA).
Finally, Plaintiff seeks to hold Twitter “liable for its exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions—such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content.” See Fair Hous. Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com, LLC, 521 F.3d 1157, 1170–71 (9th Cir. 2008) (“[A]ny activity that can be boiled down to deciding whether to exclude material that third parties seek to post online is perforce immune under section 230.”).
This case extends a line of Section 230 jurisprudence ranging from Riggs v. MySpace to Sikhs for Justice v. Facebook to Taylor v. Twitter. In this line of cases, the court treats the plaintiff’s content as the “third party” content for Section 230 purposes; thus, Section 230 protects the defendant’s decision to remove the plaintiff’s “third party” content. I’m fine with this outcome, but this interpretation of Section 230(c)(1) largely duplicates Section 230(c)(2), so it seems to pose a statutory construction conundrum. I’ve argued elsewhere that courts should use Section 230(c)(2) to handle this situation.
This case also extends the jurisprudence where courts reject “must-carry” obligations, many being brought by plaintiffs with “conservative” views (Mezey’s political leanings weren’t clear to me on a cursory review). Some of the must-carry cases have failed on Constitutional grounds; here, the court elegantly disposes of it on Section 230 statutory grounds. However the courts get there, I’m glad to see the must-carry lawsuits fail.
Case citation: Mezey v. Twitter, Inc., 2018 WL 5306769 (S.D. Fla. July 19, 2018)
Selected Prior Posts:
* Twitter Gets Powerful Win in “Must-Carry” Lawsuit–Taylor v. Twitter
* Twitter Isn’t a Shopping Mall for First Amendment Purposes (Duh)–Johnson v. Twitter
* YouTube Isn’t a Company Town (Duh)–Prager University v. Google
* Yelp, Twitter and Facebook Aren’t State Actors–Quigley v. Yelp
* What Would a Government-Operated Search Engine Look Like in the US?
* Facebook Not Liable for Account Termination–Young v. Facebook
* Search Engines Defeat Must-Carry” Lawsuit–Langdon v. Google
* Online User Account Termination and 47 U.S.C. §230(c)(2)
* Of Course the First Amendment Protects Google and Facebook (and It’s Not a Close Question)