Section 230 Still Applies to User Reviews–Daniloff v. Google
It’s well-settled law that Section 230 protects review services for tortious user reviews. The Ninth Circuit told us this in 2016 (in Kimzey v. Yelp), but the caselaw was already clear by then. Yet, here we are in 2023, still reiterating that venerable legal principle.
Alexander Daniloff is an Oregon lawyer. His website stands out for its late 1990s design ethos, plus it uses line numbers on every web page (even the “contact us” page) as if they were court pleadings. That’s not something you see every day.
Keown posted a negative review of Daniloff in Google Reviews. You can see the review here. Keown’s review starts off: “A liar. A thief.” and proceeds to tell a story of Daniloff’s allegedly poor service to the reviewer’s friend.
Daniloff demanded that Google remove the review, which Google repeatedly rebuffed. Daniloff sued Google and Keown for defamation. This is an easy dismissal for Google:
- ICS Provider. Daniloff conceded.
- Publisher/Speaker Claim. “Plaintiff premises his defamation claim on Defendant Google’s publication of Defendant Keown’s review.”
- Third-Party Content. The “allegedly defamatory review was posted by Defendant Keown.”
To get around this, Daniloff claimed Google materially contributed to the defamation by hosting it. The court tersely rejects the argument, citing Kimzey. The court concludes:
To the extent that Plaintiff relies on Defendant Google’s refusal to remove Defendant Keown’s review in pursuing his defamation claim, this Court also holds that Defendant Google is immunized under the CDA for this decision
The whole opinion runs only 7 pages. There wasn’t much to discuss.
Google wins on a motion to dismiss, even though this looks like the kind of case that might have qualified for Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law. Because Google didn’t choose that path, Daniloff won’t be on the hook for Google’s legal fees. I imagine this case will go next to the Ninth Circuit, where it will be affirmed–likely in a short non-precedential memorandum opinion.
Case citation: Daniloff v. Google LLC, 2023 WL 1103648 (D. Ore. Jan. 30, 2023). The complaint.