Lawsuit Over Twitter Suspension Fails Again–Zhang v. Twitter

A Twitter user sued over his account suspension. The court dismissed the case without prejudice. Blog post coverage of that ruling here. The user tried again. Same result.

Section 230. Twitter qualifies for the standard three-element test for 230:

  • Twitter is an ICS provider.
  • “Plaintiff seeks to hold Twitter liable for decisions regarding “information provided by another information content provider”—that is, information he and the third-party user, rather than Twitter, provided.”
    • “Plaintiff appears to argue Twitter’s placement of information in “social media feeds” renders it an information content provider. Not so. “[P]roliferation and dissemination of content does not equal creation or development of content.”” Cite to Kimzey.
  • “all his claims relate to the suspension of his account and the alleged failure to suspend the third-party user’s account, whether they are styled as breach of contract, tort, or fraud claims…All of Plaintiff’s claims seek to treat Twitter as a publisher.”

Zhang tried the breach-of-contract workaround, but the court says flatly: “There is no exception under Section 230 for breach of contract claims.” Cite to King v. Facebook and Murphy v. Twitter.

Any claims pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252, 2252A, or 2257, based on Twitter allegedly inadequately failing to police CSAM, fail because there isn’t “any exception from Section 230 immunity for civil claims premised upon federal criminal statutes.”

The court summarizes: “Twitter is immune under Section 230(c)(1) from Plaintiff’s claims arising from Twitter’s decisions regarding suspension of his account and its decisions regarding the third-party user’s account.”

The court then explains why the claims would fail even without Section 230 (your continuing reminder that reforming 230 wouldn’t change the outcome of this case).

Contract Breach.

To the extent Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim is predicated on Twitter’s suspension of and refusal to reinstate his account, this claim fails because Twitter’s Terms of Service provide “[w]e may suspend or terminate your accounts or cease providing you with all or part of the Services at any time for any reason.” [cites to Yuksel and Murphy].

As to Twitter’s alleged breach of its various policies, Plaintiff has not alleged facts that plausibly support an inference these policies constitute a contract between Plaintiff and Twitter, and even if he could do so, the policies do not require Twitter to perform any particular action

Add this case to the ever-growing scrapheap of failed account termination and content removal cases.

Case Citation: Zhang v. Twitter, Inc., 2023 WL 5493823 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2023)