Another Court Says Section 230 Applies to Retweeting–Holmok v. Burke

Holmok teaches at Lakewood High School. Virag tweeted: “When I was in his engineering class, I had been a part of a few reports filed against him. Some being racial and some being sexist. Nothing was ever done.” Burke retweeted Virag’s tweet and added “@Lakewood_LHS.” Holmok sued Burke for retweeting Virag’s tweet. The court dismisses per Section 230.

ICS User. The court says Twitter is an ICS and Burke is a Twitter user. The court rejected Holmok’s argument that 230 only applies to service providers.

Third-Party Content. The court distinguishes the quote-tweeting at issue in US Dominion v. Byrne, because the defendant in that case added allegedly defamatory content to the tweet. In contrast, Burke tagging @Lakewood_LHS didn’t add any defamatory content.

Publisher/Speaker Claims. The court applies Section 230 to both of Holmok’s defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. See Yue v. Miao.

It looks like this time the student taught the teacher something?

This case reaches the same result as the (unfortunately) not-cited Banaian v. Bascom case from May, which also involved retweeting an allegedly defamatory tweet. As I wrote then:

This ruling is a fabulous reminder that Section 230 doesn’t just protect “Big Tech”; it protects all Americans who use the Internet. Perhaps the defendants would have ultimately defeated this case anyways, but having Section 230 on their sides gave them–and all of us–a little more freedom to engage each other on social media without fearing that every casual interaction might trigger a financial cataclysm. So the next time you hear politicians claiming that Section 230 benefits only Google and Facebook, cite this case as additional proof that they misunderstand what Section 230 actually does, or they are lying, or both.

Case Citation: Holmok v. Burke, 2022 WL 2256413 (Ohio Ct. App. June 23, 2022)

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