from the take-responsibility-for-your-own-actions dept
Thankfully, the court quickly got this right, tossing out the lawsuit and noting that Grindr is protected by Section 230 of the CDA, and cannot be held liable for the actions of its users.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court holds that Plaintiff’s claim is barred by the Communications Decency Act. Furthermore, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress fail as a matter of law. Plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.The court cites multiple CDA 230 decisions that highlight how the immunity from liability clearly applies here. Also, it rejects Sapanaro's attempt to point to the famous "roommates.com" ruling. That was one of the very rare cases where a court rejected a CDA 230 defense, arguing that because Roommates.com actively asked people for preferences related to race, it violated fair housing laws. We were worried about that chipping away of Section 230 at the time. Indeed, since then, almost everyone looking to ignore Section 230 points to the Roommates case in their lawsuits. But, thankfully, almost every court ruling that discusses Roommates.com points out why it doesn't apply -- and this is yet another case where that's true (the court refers to that case as "Fair Housing" after the plaintiff, rather than the defendant Roommates.com):
The Court does not find the comparison to Fair Housing persuasive. Even assuming Plaintiff’s factual assertions to be true, as the Court must, the questions that Defendant poses to its subscribers when creating a profile substantively differ from those posed by the defendant in Fair Housing in one significant respect: they do not develop content that facially violates a state or federal statute. Defendant’s online questionnaire asks users to enter information about themselves, but these questions are facially benign. Plaintiff does not allege – nor does the Court find – that Defendants’ questionnaire solicits from users information that is illegal.The court also laughs off the argument that CDA 230 was designed to be narrowly interpreted. We now have many, many years of rulings that say otherwise, so that was clearly a non-starter. Finally, the court rightly notes that holding sites liable for what users say or do would clearly chill free speech:
This distinction is readily apparent in Fair Housing. There, the Court specifically noted that “[a] dating website that requires users to enter their sex, race, religion and marital status through drop-down menus . . . does not contribute to any alleged illegality,” since “[i]t is perfectly legal to discriminate along those lines in dating, and thus there can be no claim based solely on the content of these questions.” ... Similarly, in this case, Defendant merely “provid[ed] neutral tools to carry out what may be unlawful or illicit [conduct]”; under Fair Housing, such conduct does not amount to “development” under section 230 of the CDA.
Courts have promulgated Congress’s intent by applying CDA immunity according to its own clear terms.... This Court must do the same, and it is not this Court’s function or role to substitute its judgment for the policy choices made by Congress in promoting communications on the internet. Holding interactive service providers liable for third-party communications would have chilling implications for free speech on the internet. Specifically, if social network hosts are faced with liability every time third-party communications on their networks result in harm, they are left with two extreme courses of action if they wish to ensure insulation from liability: either over-police their networks, taking down communications that might ultimately be harmless; or, strip users of the ability to post communications altogether.It's good to see yet another clean Section 230 win -- and it's kind of crazy that these kinds of cases are still being brought.