Yet Another Twitter Account Suspension Case Fails–Jones v. Twitter
Jones had a Twitter account @aboxoffrogs. Twitter permanently suspended the account for hateful conduct. Jones sued Twitter (pro se) for (1) defamation, (2) tortious interference, (3) aiding and abetting, (4) conspiracy, (5) ratification, (6) retraction, (7) violation of Section 230(c), (8) ECPA, (9) Civil Rights Act Title II/III, (10) Civil Rights Act Title VI, (11) FTC Act, (12) 18 USC 241, (13) 18 USC 242, (14) 18 USC 245, and (15) JASTA. The court grants Twitter’s motion to dismiss.
Section 230. The court says Claims 1-7, 9-11 and 15 are all preempted by Section 230.
- Provider/User of ICS. The court says “there is no question” Twitter qualifies.
- Third-Party Content. Similarly, “there is no question” that Jones provided the content at issue.
- Publisher/Speaker. “Plaintiff’s entire Complaint relates to Twitter’s decision not to publish Plaintiff’s content.”
An easy Section 230 case. Still, take note of what claims Section 230 applied to on a motion to dismiss: they include conspiracy (contra the Tanisha case), Title II and Title III discrimination claims, and JASTA.
Federal Criminal Claims. In a misstep, the court says that the federal criminal claims aren’t covered by Section 230. This is not correct. As the lower court in Cohen v. Facebook wrote:
While, read most favorably, this section could be interpreted to inhibit immunity as to civil liability predicated on federal criminal statutes, such as the ATA provisions at issue here, this reading has been rejected by most courts that have examined it. [cites to Backpage, MA v. Village Voice, Doe v. Bates, and Obado v. Magedson; there are others] The court concludes that this subsection does not limit Section 230(c)(1) immunity in civil actions based on criminal statutes but rather extends only to criminal prosecutions.
Nevertheless, the claims still fail. The court says that none of the invoked federal criminal statutes authorize civil claims.
ECPA. The court correctly says the ECPA claim isn’t covered by 230. This is one of the rare times the ECPA exception to Section 230 has come up. It’s of no consequence, because the court says Jones can’t establish a prima facie ECPA violation. Jones “asserts that Twitter should not be able to access any content from his account in its defense of this action.” But Twitter didn’t “intercept” the offending tweet when he first made it, and maintaining the archives isn’t an “interception” either because the content is in storage.
Case Citation: Jones v. Twitter, Inc., 2020 WL 6263412 (D. Md. Oct. 23, 2020)