Another LinkedIn Account Termination Case Fails–Gundogdu v. LinkedIn

Another account termination case. The plaintiff shared “her religious conservative opinions” on LinkedIn. LinkedIn closed the account because she allegedly shared misleading COVID information. “Plaintiff claims that her beliefs against the COVID-19 vaccines are rooted in religion.” She also claims she suffered financial losses due to the LinkedIn account termination.

[I imagine some of you are wondering if any LinkedIn account is worth suing over. I’m not sure. However, in the post-Musk era, LinkedIn has become my #1 social media referral source.]

As with the dozens of other account termination cases that preceded this case, her lawsuit goes nowhere.

The plaintiff argued that LinkedIn qualified as an employment agency and, as such, engaged in religious discrimination. The court disagrees for two mutually reinforcing reasons. First, “merely providing users with access to employment opportunities does not rise to the level of ‘a significant degree’ of engagement in employment-related activities.” Second, “Plaintiff generally alleges that LinkedIn closed her account after she shared her religious opinions, including her opinions of the COVID-19 vaccines, which she claims are ‘rooted in religion.’ Plaintiff does not specifically allege any facts suggesting that she relayed these religious beliefs to LinkedIn.”

To be clear, I don’t think the court is implying the inverse. Could Gundogdu have put LinkedIn on notice of her religious beliefs? If so, how? What would we expect LinkedIn to do differently once on notice? I think the court is simply reinforcing that LinkedIn isn’t an employment agency and couldn’t comply with the associated obligations.

The plaintiff also argued that LinkedIn breached its contract with her. The court also disagrees:

Plaintiff fails to explain how LinkedIn breached any of these terms when it allegedly discriminated against Plaintiff for her conservative viewpoints, labeled her content as “misinformation,” and de-platformed her. For example, Plaintiff alleges that LinkedIn “blocked her right to be more productive and successful,” but fails to explain how doing so would be a breach of the User Agreement. Plaintiff further contends that LinkedIn modified the meaning of her expression by labeling her posts as misinformation. However, to “modify” is to change, alter, or make different.  Plaintiff does not allege any clear, specific facts suggesting that LinkedIn changed or altered her posts. Instead, Plaintiff alleges that LinkedIn closed her account for sharing “misleading content” about the COVID-19 vaccines. Likewise, it is unclear to the Court how “favor[ing] liberals and discriminat[ing] [against] conservatives” breaches any provision of the User Agreement.

To me, this lawsuit provides yet another illustration of the risks of imposing anti-discrimination obligations onto services like LinkedIn. Putting aside the (un)constitutionality of such obligations, those rights would be weaponized by people with majority characteristics seeking to preserve their privileged status–directly opposite to the expectations of the advocates who think anti-discrimination principles would benefit people with minority characteristics. Or, in circumstances like this case, anti-discrimination principles could be weaponized to help spread potentially deadly misinformation that undermines public health.

Case Citation: Gundogdu v. LinkedIn Corp., 0:23-cv-60804-WPD (S.D. Fla. Aug. 7, 2023). The complaint.

UPDATE: The 11th Circuit affirmed the decision. Gundogdu v. LinkedIn Corp., 2024 WL 1597781 (11th Cir. April 12, 2024)

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BONUS: Chauhan v. Google LLC, 2023 WL 5004078 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2023). The complaint.

The plaintiff sued Google for terminating their Gmail account.

The plaintiff claimed Google breached its contract by “(1) failing to provide advance notice prior to termination and an opportunity to recover content from the account, (2) terminating Plaintiff’s account without cause, and (3) not providing an appeals process.” The court says there’s no TOS provisions requiring #2 or 3. Instead, the TOS had the standard provision that Google can terminate at any time for any or no reason.

The court sees more concern with Google’s language that “If we discontinue a Service, where reasonably possible, we will give you reasonable advance notice and a chance to get information out of that Service.” I assume this refers to Google discontinuing a service for everyone (like Google+) as opposed to enforcing the TOS against individual users, but perhaps the wording could be clearer. In any case, the court says Google is saved by its TOS provision saying that it’s not responsible for lost data. No damages = no claim.

Similarly, the court would have considered a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing for duties “such as keeping contents safe and maintaining reasonable procedures,” but the disclaimer for lost data saves Google again.

The court doesn’t cite other cases involving termination of email accounts. Hall v. Earthlink was one of the early ones. 18 years later–same result.