Section 230 Preempts Claims Against Omegle–M.H. v. Omegle

Omegle enables real-time video and text chats with users assigned at random. The case involves an 11 year old girl who was a first-time Omegle user. The complaint alleges that a malefactor John Doe manipulated her into disrobing so he could make screengrabs. The plaintiffs brought the following claims against Omegle: (1) possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A; (2) violation of the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591 and 1595; (3) violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2710; (4) intrusion upon seclusion; (5) negligence; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (7) ratification/vicarious liability; and (8) public nuisance. Omegle moved to dismiss on Section 230 grounds, which the court grants.

ICS Provider. “Omegle’s hosting capabilities for its users, coupled with its lack of material content generation, place it squarely within the definition of an ICS provider.”

Publisher/Speaker Claims. Some of the plaintiffs’ claims “seek redress for damages caused by John Doe’s conduct. No well-pleaded facts suggest that Omegle had actual knowledge of the sex trafficking venture involving C.H. or that Omegle had an active participation in the venture.”

Other claims “are rooted in the creation and maintenance of the platform. These claims recognize the distinction between Omegle as an ICS provider and the users, but nonetheless treat Omegle as the publisher responsible for the conduct at issue…The CDA bars such claims as they seek to redirect liability onto Omegle for the ultimate actions of their users.”

Third-Party Content. “the information and content at issue here was in fact generated by a separate content provider, John Doe. The Second Amended Complaint recounts that C.H.’s injuries were caused by John Doe during their chatroom encounter. John Doe’s video feed, his brandishing of C.H.’s personal identifying information, and the threats he subjected her to were not provided by Omegle in any sense. Merely providing the forum where harmful conduct took place cannot otherwise serve to impose liability onto Omegle.”

FOSTA. “generalized knowledge that sex trafficking occurs on a website is insufficient to maintain a plausible 18 U.S.C. § 1591 claim that survives CDA immunity….the asserted claims against Omegle are premised upon general, constructive knowledge of past sex trafficking incidents.” Cite to Doe v. Kik. I will have more to say on this topic in a very lengthy FOSTA roundup blog post stuck in my queue.

Court’s Conclusion: “Congress has instructed that claims for harm suffered at the hands of other users, without more, cannot justify redirecting liability to the forum where the harm took place. While the Court sympathizes with Plaintiffs over the harm C.H. suffered while using Omegle, the Court finds that they have nonetheless failed to plead claims that withstand Omegle’s Section 230 Immunity.” For this reason, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice.

Case citation: M.H. v., LLC, 2022 WL 93575 (M.D. Fla. Jan. 10, 2022). I filed a rebuttal report in this case, but the court granted the motion to dismiss without reaching the reports.

More SESTA/FOSTA-Related Posts:

* To No One’s Surprise, FOSTA Is Confounding Judges–J.B. v. G6
FOSTA Claim Can Proceed Against Twitter–Doe v. Twitter
FOSTA Survives Constitutional Challenge–US v. Martono
2H 2020 Quick Links, Part 4 (FOSTA)
Justice Thomas’ Anti-Section 230 Statement Doesn’t Support Reconsideration–JB v. Craigslist
Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Against Craigslist Moves Forward–ML v. Craigslist
Section 230 Preempts Another FOSTA Claim–Doe v. Kik
Section 230 Protects Craigslist from Sex Trafficking Claims, Despite FOSTA–JB v. Craigslist
Facebook Still Can’t Dismiss Sex Trafficking Victims’ Lawsuit in Texas State Court
Craigslist Denied Section 230 Immunity for Classified Ads from 2008–ML v. Craigslist
2H 2019 and Q1 2020 Quick Links, Part 3 (FOSTA/Backpage)
New Paper Explains How FOSTA Devastated Male Sex Workers
FOSTA Constitutional Challenge Revived–Woodhull Freedom Foundation v. US
New Civil FOSTA Lawsuits Push Expansive Legal Theories Against Unexpected Defendants (Guest Blog Post)
Section 230 Helps Salesforce Defeat Sex Trafficking Lawsuit–Doe v. Salesforce
Latest Linkwrap on FOSTA’s Aftermath
Section 230 Doesn’t End Lawsuit Claiming Facebook Facilitated Sex Trafficking–Doe v. Facebook
New Essay: The Complicated Story of FOSTA and Section 230
Who Benefited from FOSTA? (Spoiler: Probably No One)
FOSTA’s Political Curse
FOSTA Doesn’t Help Pro Se Litigant’s Defamation Claim Against Facebook
Constitutional Challenge to FOSTA Dismissed for Lack of Standing (Guest Blog Post)
An Update on the Constitutional Court Challenge to FOSTA–Woodhull Freedom v. US (Guest Blog Post)
Indianapolis Police Have Been “Blinded Lately Because They Shut Backpage Down”
Constitutional Challenge Against FOSTA Filed–Woodhull v. US (Guest Blog Post)
Catching Up on FOSTA Since Its Enactment (A Linkwrap)
More Aftermath from the ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’
‘Worst of Both Worlds’ FOSTA Signed Into Law, Completing Section 230’s Evisceration
Backpage Loses Another Section 230 Motion (Again Without SESTA/FOSTA)–Florida Abolitionists v. Backpage
District Court Ruling Highlights Congress’ Hastiness To Pass ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’– Doe 1 v. Backpage
More on the Unconstitutional Retroactivity of ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’ (Guest Blog Post)
Senate Passes ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’ (Linkwrap)
Why FOSTA’s Restriction on Prostitution Promotion Violates the First Amendment (Guest Blog Post)
SESTA’s Sponsors Still Don’t Understand Section 230 (As They Are About to Eviscerate It)
Can the ‘Worst of Both Worlds FOSTA’ Be Salvaged? Perhaps…and You Can Help (URGENT CALL TO ACTION)
Congress Probably Will Ruin Section 230 This Week (SESTA/FOSTA Updates)
What’s New With SESTA/FOSTA (January 17, 2018 edition)
New House Bill (Substitute FOSTA) Has More Promising Approach to Regulating Online Sex Trafficking
* My testimony at the House Energy & Commerce Committee: Balancing Section 230 and Anti-Sex Trafficking Initiatives
How SESTA Undermines Section 230’s Good Samaritan Provisions
Manager’s Amendment for SESTA Slightly Improves a Still-Terrible Bill
Another Human Trafficking Expert Raises Concerns About SESTA (Guest Blog Post)
Another SESTA Linkwrap (Week of October 30)
Recent SESTA Developments (A Linkwrap)
Section 230’s Applicability to ‘Inconsistent’ State Laws (Guest Blog Post)
An Overview of Congress’ Pending Legislation on Sex Trafficking (Guest Blog Post)
The DOJ’s Busts of MyRedbook & Rentboy Show How Backpage Might Be Prosecuted (Guest Blog Post)
Problems With SESTA’s Retroactivity Provision (Guest Blog Post)
My Senate Testimony on SESTA + SESTA Hearing Linkwrap
Debunking Some Myths About Section 230 and Sex Trafficking (Guest Blog Post)
Congress Is About To Ruin Its Online Free Speech Masterpiece (Cross-Post)
Backpage Executives Must Face Money Laundering Charges Despite Section 230–People v. Ferrer
How Section 230 Helps Sex Trafficking Victims (and SESTA Would Hurt Them) (guest blog post)
Sen. Portman Says SESTA Doesn’t Affect the Good Samaritan Defense. He’s Wrong
Senate’s “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017”–and Section 230’s Imminent Evisceration
The “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017” Bill Would Be Bad News for Section 230
WARNING: Draft “No Immunity for Sex Traffickers Online Act” Bill Poses Major Threat to Section 230
The Implications of Excluding State Crimes from 47 U.S.C. § 230’s Immunity