Twitter Wins Another Account Termination Case–Yuksel v. Twitter
This is another account termination/suspension case, which turns out like all of the others. Yuksel was a longtime Twitter user with 142k followers. He claims that Twitter suspended his account at the behest of the Turkish government. The court dismisses his lawsuit against Twitter.
- ICS provider. Yuksel admitted.
- Third-party content. Yuksel admitted that “his account, and the content he posted on it, constitute ‘information provided by another information content provider’ within the meaning Section 230.”
- Publisher/speaker claims. Yuksel’s “claims derive entirely from Twitter’s decision to exclude his content and suspend his account—that is, traditional publishing functions….Yuksel’s claims arise from Twitter’s decision to suspend his account purportedly because of his political speech on the platform….Yuksel’s claims seek to impose liability based on Twitter’s protected publishing functions. Section 230 requires their dismissal.” Cites to King v. Facebook (9th Cir.), King v. Facebook (ND Cal), Riggs v. MySpace, Al-Ahmed v. Twitter, FAN v. Facebook and more.
- Federal crimes exception. Section 230 “does not provide any exception…for civil claims premised upon federal criminal statutes—including civil RICO claims.” Cites to Gonzalez v. Google, Kimzey v. Yelp (WD Wash), Kimzey v. Yelp (9th Cir.).
- Breach of contract exception. “By its terms, Section 230 does not provide any exception for contract claims. And courts routinely hold that Section 230 immunizes platforms from contract claims, where, as here, they seek to impose liability for protected publishing activity.” Cites to King v. Facebook (9th Cir.), Murphy v. Twitter.
An easy Section 230 case. But the court, like many before it, goes on to show that the case would fail irrespective of Section 230, so be careful blaming Section 230 for this result.
Breach of Contract
Twitter’s TOS gave it all the discretion it needed. In its TOS, Twitter says that it “may ‘at all times’ ‘remove or refuse to distribute any Content’ and ‘terminate users.’ And under the current Terms (to which Yuksel, by continuing to use Twitter’s platform, has agreed to be bound), Twitter ‘may suspend or terminate [his] account or cease providing [him] with all or part of the Services at any time for any or no reason …..'” Cites to King v. Facebook, Murphy v. Twitter, and Rangel v. Dorsey. I suspect some of Musk’s erratic statements about content moderation will be weaponized by future plaintiffs claiming that he overrode Twitter’s TOS.
This case joins the pile of 70+ similar failed lawsuits. See my article from last year rounding them up through 2021.
The more interesting question is whether a Musk-owned Twitter (a) would make the same suspension decisions, and (b) will reverse this decision unilaterally. Musk has indicated that Twitter may review prior suspension decisions (then again, Musk has said a lot of things), and it is certainly within Twitter’s rights to restore Yuksel’s account even if the law doesn’t require it to do so.
Every time I see phrases like “traditional publisher functions” in 230 opinions now, I cringe because the Supreme Court will likely interpret that phrase in the Gonzalez case and could upend all of these decisions.