Twitter Wins Another Account Suspension Case–Wilson v. Twitter

I previously blogged the plaintiff’s virtually identical lawsuit in June. The plaintiff claimed Twitter suspended his account because he’s a heterosexual Christian. The court rejected all of his claims, including his allegations that Twitter was a state actor and Twitter violated civil rights laws. The court also held that Section 230 applied to his claims, including his discrimination claims. The June ruling is a significant addition to the account termination and Section 230 genres of jurisprudence.

The plaintiff filed essentially the same lawsuit a second time, again claiming Twitter discriminated against him. The main change is that he dropped any claims for damages, solely seeking unspecified injunctive relief. For the same reasons the case failed last time, this lawsuit goes nowhere.

The heterosexuality discrimination claim fails because the Civil Rights Act does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Regarding his Christianity, the court says he didn’t plead enough facts to show that Twitter discriminated against him on that basis. His tweets did not sufficiently signal his Christianity to clue Twitter into his beliefs, and thus it couldn’t have been the basis of Twitter’s actions:

Tweets which use offensive language to insult individuals based on their sexual orientation are prohibited by Twitter regardless of whether those tweets are motivated by religious or secular beliefs. Therefore, even if Wilson were driven by his religious beliefs to create content which Twitter found to be in violation of its policy, his personal motivation does not bar Twitter from enforcing its generally applicable rules regarding user conduct.

Parroting language from the first opinion, the court reiterates that Section 230 applies to his discrimination claim:

It is clear that Wilson attempts to hold Twitter liable as a publisher for its refusal to allow Wilson access to Twitter’s platform. As Twitter’s decision to prohibit Wilson’s participation on the platform was reached in the course of a traditional editorial function, namely deciding what type of content to publish, Wilson’s claim is precluded by application of § 230(c) of the CDA. While this case does not represent the “typical” case envisioned by § 230 immunity, wherein a litigant seeks to hold an interactive computer service provider liable for publishing content from a third-party which the litigant finds objectionable, courts have readily found that the statutory immunity also applies to the factual scenario presented here, where the plaintiff objects to the removal of his or her own content.

Following in the footsteps of the prior opinion, the court expressly concludes that “Claims brought pursuant to federal civil rights statutes, such as Title II of the CRA, are not exempted from the immunity provided by the CDA.”

Case citation: Wilson v. Twitter, Inc., 2020 WL 5985191 (S.D. W.V. Sept. 17, 2020). That opinion is the magistrate report. The supervising judge approved it verbatim, 2020 WL 5983900 (S.D. W.V. Oct. 8, 2020)