Twitter Defeats Yet Another Lawsuit from a Suspended User–Cox v. Twitter

Cox alleged tweeted: “Islam is a Philosophy of Conquests wrapped in Religious Fantasy & uses Racism, Misogyny, Pedophilia, Mutilation, Torture, Authoritarianism, Homicide, Rape . . . Peaceful Muslims are Marginal Muslims who are Heretics & Hypocrites to Islam. Islam is . . .” In response, Twitter suspended Cox’s account for violating its Hate Speech policy. Cox sued Twitter pro se.

The court says Twitter qualifies for the Section 230(c)(2)(A) safe harbor (though, curiously, the court only cites 230(c)(1) cases in support). Cox argued that Twitter is a platform, not a publisher [SIGH]. The court replies:

“the decision to furnish an account, or prohibit a particular user from obtaining an account, is itself publishing activity”. [Fields v. Twitter] Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to hold the Defendant liable for exercising its editorial judgment to delete or suspend his account as a publisher, his claims are barred by § 230(c) of the CDA. [Zeran v. AOL]

[Again with the 230(c)(1) citations…?] The court didn’t do a proper 230(c)(2)(A) analysis, and it might have been better if the court expressly relied on 230(c)(1) along the lines of Sikhs for Justice v. Facebook.

Cox also argued Twitter breached its contract. The court says that contract breach may be outside of Section 230’s immunity “if Plaintiff and the Defendant have entered into a contract generating a legal duty distinct from the Defendant’s conduct as a publisher.” [cite to Barnes v. Yahoo]. Not surprisingly, this move doesn’t help Cox because Twitter’s TOS has all kinds of protective provisions, including various reservations of rights to suspend users. Thus, Twitter didn’t breach its TOS. The court’s exclusion of contract breach from 230 also seems odd given that Twitter’s exercise of its publishing privilege is squarely at issue in the contract breach claim.

Twitter has won other cases over its suspension practices, including Mezey v. Twitter and Taylor v. Twitter. I’m sure more are coming.

Case citation: Cox v. Twitter, Inc., 2:18-2573-DCN-BM (D.S.C.). Magistrate R&R dated Feb. 8, 2019. The district court approved the R&R on March 8, 2019.