YouTube Defeats Lawsuit Over Threatening Content–Wells v. YouTube

This is a pro se lawsuit. The plaintiff “contends that her image was posted on Defendant’s website in order to threaten her, that the image has been viewed millions of times, that she has ‘witnessed such threats/perceived threats’ as a result, and that the threats caused her social, emotional, physical, mental, and monetary harm. She seeks $504,000,000 in monetary damages.” She sued for violations of the the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), and various unspecified statutes. FWIW, the FTCA doesn’t have a private right of action and I don’t think the CPSA does either, but the court pursues a different path to resolution.

YouTube sought a motion to dismiss on Section 230(c)(1) grounds. The court applies the familiar 3-part test:

  • ICS Provider. YouTube qualifies. Cites to Lewis v. Google and Lancaster v. Alphabet.
  • Third-Party Content. “She does not allege that Defendant itself had posted her image on its website or any other website, and she does not dispute that the provider of her image was a third party.”
  • Publisher/Speaker Claim. Her claims are “based on the allegedly derogatory image of her that is posted on Defendant’s website.”

The court says it can grant the motion to dismiss even though Section 230 is an affirmative defense “because the requirements of § 230 immunity appears on the face of Plaintiff’s complaint.”

In a footnote, the court says “Although Plaintiff’s surreply also alleges violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, even if liberally construed as a motion for leave to amend, the motion would be subject to denial as futile because immunity under § 230(c) would also shield Defendant from liability for those alleged violations.” Hmm…I’d like to hear more about this in light of Section 230’s exclusion for intellectual property claims. Was it a 512(f) claim? A 1201/1202 claim? Something else? Which of those claims should qualify as an IP claim for 230’s purposes?

The court dismisses the claim with prejudice. This was an obvious outcome.

Case citation: Wells v. YouTube, LLC, 2021 WL 2652966 (N.D. Tex. May 17, 2021). On June 28, the supervising judge approved the magistrate’s report.