Facebook Tells Court Laura Loomer's Defamation Allegations All Target Protected Opinions
from the speech-has-consequences,-Ms.-Free-Speech-Warrior dept
Last summer, alt-right “journalist” and no-scare-quotes buffoon Laura Loomer sued Facebook for uninviting her from its platform. According to her lawyer, the equally-buffoonish Larry Klayman, it was defamatory for Facebook to boot Loomer from the platform by designating her a “dangerous individual.”
According to Loomer, her removal from Facebook entitles her to 5% of Facebook’s net worth: roughly about $3 billion at the time of the suit’s filing. Loomer sued in Florida but will now have to continue her lawsuit in California, where Facebook is actually located. And Facebook has fired back in its own filing, pointing out that designating users as “dangerous individuals” and performing other moderation activities is not only protected by Section 230 of the CDA, but by the First Amendment as well.
Facebook’s motion to dismiss [PDF] says that decisions to label people as “dangerous individuals” is an expression of Facebook’s opinion of that person and their posts — something clearly protected by the First Amendment.
To the extent she alleges Facebook called her “dangerous” by removing her accounts pursuant to its DIO policy and describing its policy generally in the press, the law is clear that calling someone “dangerous”—or saying that she “promoted” or “engaged” in “hate”—is a protected statement of opinion. Even if it were not, Ms. Loomer cannot possibly meet her burden to prove that it would be objectively false to describe her as “dangerous” or promoting or engaging in “hate” given her widely reported controversial public statements. To the extent Ms. Loomer is claiming, in the guise of a claim for “defamation by implication,” that Facebook branded her a “terrorist” or accused her of conduct that would also violate the DIO policy, Ms. Loomer offers no basis to suggest (as she must) that Facebook ever intended or endorsed that implication.
Facebook states that Loomer was welcome to participate in the discovery process to find something that indicated the platform acted in bad faith by labeling her “dangerous.” But she chose not to. And even if she had, it’s unlikely she would have uncovered the defamation smoking gun she needs to continue suing Facebook.
At this stage, Ms. Loomer can no longer rely on the threadbare allegations in her complaint. Having failed to conduct discovery, there is no record evidence to suggest that Facebook subjectively knew she was not “dangerous” and/or did not “promote … hate.”
And, Facebook notes, we’re not the only platform that believes Loomer is a net loss for third-party content providers, if not humanity itself.
Nor could she ever make this showing: given Ms. Loomer’s public statements and actions, and the fact that most major platforms have banned her for violating their policies, this is clearly an issue where, at a minimum, reasonable minds can disagree.
While Loomer has decided it’s wise to continue a lawsuit without engaging in discovery, Facebook says there’s plenty of evidence on the record — including statements made by Loomer herself — that her posts and actions violate the platform’s terms of service, as well as those of other sites. The supposedly defamatory statements made by Facebook during its booting of Loomer are incapable of being proven false — not when so much of Loomer’s behavior makes them arguably true.
Facebook’s use of the phrases “dangerous” and “promotes hate” are “so debatable, loose and varying” in meaning that they are “insusceptible to proof of truth or falsity.” Ms. Loomer is, by her own admission, a controversial figure. She has called Islam a “cancer on society” and “cancer on humanity” and advocated laws prohibiting Muslims from serving in public office. She has advocated a “non Islamic form of [U]ber or [L]yft” so she doesn’t have to “support another Islamic immigrant driver.” She has described herself as a “#ProudIslamaphobe” and called Muslims “savages” on Twitter. And she has appeared with or expressed support for individuals who were previously banned by Facebook under its DIO policy for engaging in “organized hate.” While Ms. Loomer may not believe she is “dangerous” or has “promoted hate,” others disagree—as demonstrated by her admission that online platforms have widely banned her.
There’s no way Loomer is going to win this lawsuit. But it probably doesn’t matter much to Loomer and her lawyer. Klayman loves to handle performative lawsuits that do nothing for clients but allow them to preach to the converted using the federal court system as their pulpit. If that’s all Klayman and his clients desire, even a loss can be considered a win. But a federal anti-SLAPP law would make these stunt lawsuits prohibitively expensive. And that’s what this nation needs if we’re going to rid ourselves of noisy nuisance lawsuits like these.