Google Search Qualifies For Section 230, Whether or Not It’s a “Platform”–Chukwurah v. Google

This is a prisoner pro se lawsuit. “The Complaint avers that beginning February 28, 2014, Google identified Chukwurah as a ‘a triple murderer serving 50 years in a Maryland,'” allegedly because of false court documentation. The court explains:

the Court, at best, may plausibly infer that Google amounted to the search engine which linked Chukwurah’s name to content created and published by the Circuit Court. Even Chukwurah concedes that Google “is a search engine who didn’t start this defamation.” Thus, the CDA precludes the common law defamation claims against Google as a third-party interactive computer service provider…

Chukwurah, in response, seems to argue that the CDA does not bar his claims because Google created the platform that “enabled the defamation of [his] name in a demonizing manner [g]lobally.” But this is precisely the service provider’s role that the CDA aims to protect. Where, as here, a lawsuit seeks to hold the provider liable for decisions about posting content created by a third party, the CDA precludes the claim against that provider.

The court deftly sidesteps the platform vs. publisher dichotomy, which makes sense because that dichotomy is asinine and incoherent. As the court succinctly says, Section 230 immunizes lawsuits that seek to “hold the provider liable for decisions about posting content created by a third party.” Call it a platform or a publisher; it doesn’t matter. The result is the same either way: Section 230 preempts the claim.

Case citation: Chukwurah v. Google, 2020 WL 510158 (D. Md. Jan. 31, 2020)