Texas Appeals Court Brushes Off Section 230 In Allowing Lawsuit Over Sex Trafficking Against Facebook To Continue

from the it-continues-because-it-continues dept

Earlier this year, we mentioned, in passing, personal injury lawyer Annie McAdams' weird crusade against internet companies and Section 230. The lawyer -- who bragged to the NY Times about how she found out her favorite restaurant's secret margarita mix by suing them and using the discovery process to get the recipe -- has been suing a bunch of internet companies trying to argue that we can ignore Section 230 if you argue that the sites were "negligent" in how they were designed. In a case filed in Texas against Facebook (and others) arguing that three teenagers were recruited by sex traffickers via Facebook and that Facebook is to blame for that, the lower court judge ruled last year that he wouldn't dismiss on Section 230 grounds. I wish I could explain to you his reasoning, but the ruling is basically "well, one side says 230 bars this suit, and the other says it doesn't, and I've concluded it doesn't bar the lawsuit." That's literally about the entire analysis:

In reviewing the statute and the cases cited by the parties, the Court concludes that the Plaintiffs have plead causes of action that would not be barred by the immunity granted under the Act.

Why? I could not tell you. Judge Steven Kirkland provides no real basis.

Either way, Facebook appealed, and the appeals court has upheld the lower court ruling with even less analysis. The only mention of Section 230 is to say that that was Facebook's reason for asking for dismissal. The court takes three paragraphs to describe the history of the case, and this is the entire analysis:

Facebook has not established that it is entitled to mandamus relief. Accordingly, we deny Facebook’s petitions for writ of mandamus.

Why? Who the hell knows. Texas courts are weird, man.

At least one judge on the panel, Justice Tracy Christopher, issued a dissent from the majority opinion. The dissent is also pretty short and sweet, and basically says "um, seems like 230 applies here, so, yeah."

I respectfully dissent from these denials of mandamus and I urge the Texas Supreme Court to review these cases. Federal law grants Facebook immunity from suits such as these. See 47 U.S.C. § 230. Because Facebook has immunity, these suits have no basis in law, and dismissal under Texas Rule of Procedure 91a is proper.

The Real Parties in Interest urge our court to adopt a construction of Section 230 that has been adopted by only a few courts. The vast majority of the courts reviewing this law have adopted the arguments made by Facebook. The artful pleading by the Real Parties in Interest should not prevail over the statute.

Also, just to be clear, since some may ask, and since this is a case about sex trafficking: FOSTA does not apply here because (1) the actions at issue happened prior to FOSTA becoming law, and (2) (as only the dissent notes), FOSTA does not apply to civil actions in state court. Still, what a weird set of rulings, that seem to go against nearly all Section 230 case law... and with basically no analysis as to why at all.

Filed Under: annie mcadams, cda 230, intermediary liability, negligence, product liability, section 230, sex trafficking, texas, vexatious lawsuits
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 May 2020 @ 12:56pm

    I can guess the “why”: “We must let people think we’re doing something about sex trafficking.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2020 @ 1:14pm

      Re:

      More 'I do not care what I destroy in an effort to kill the sex industry'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 4 May 2020 @ 1:22pm

      Re:

      I'm assuming these are state-level judges and not federal judges. If they're state-level judges, they're probably elected and not appointed, and if they're elected, the judges possibly ruled that way due to political concerns (i.e. not wanting to get removed from office).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 May 2020 @ 2:44am

        Re: Re:

        "...if they're elected, the judges possibly ruled that way due to political concerns..."

        Current Judge: "Because the law mandates immunity to the platform over the user's posts, I have to dismiss this lawsuit."

        Challenging candidate: "Current Judge gave sex traffickers Get-out-of-jail cards. Don't vote for the criminal's best friend!"

        Sadly outright political advertising often isn't subject to the same laws which would hang the marketer trying to use similar language in advertising...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 May 2020 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      That and/or 'Since ruling in favor of Facebook would allow dishonest people to accuse us of being pro-sex trafficking, and ruling against them doesn't harm us at all it was pretty obvious which option to go for.'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 4 May 2020 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re:

        ruling against [Facebook] doesn't harm us at all it was pretty obvious which option to go for.'

        Not only that, but harmful to the Judges' electoral prospects (considering that judges in Texas are elected).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 May 2020 @ 2:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Not only that, but harmful to the Judges' electoral prospects (considering that judges in Texas are elected)."

          A telling argument for not allowing the judges bench to be populated by the greatest demagogue.
          It might also help if texas judges didn't sometimes consider Roy Bean a charming example to follow.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2020 @ 1:50pm

    Judicial Euphemism

    "artful pleading," a.k.a., "lying tongue-fuckery"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 May 2020 @ 2:04pm

    If Facebook had shown up with a badge would the Judges have understood immunity then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2020 @ 5:31pm

    "Oh fuck," moaned John Smith, "I'm going to cum!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 4 May 2020 @ 9:18pm

    OK, Texas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2020 @ 7:02am

    Next Up

    How about arresting those bastards who pave the roads and sidewalks involved in sex trafficking?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 5 May 2020 @ 1:20pm

    Why not..

    Sue every news paper this nation has that runs a Classified section??
    There are allot of those and Many owned by 1-2 people With LOTS of money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Creative22 (profile), 7 May 2020 @ 3:07am

    Review

    Thanks, very impressive. Really I appreciate you to continue your work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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