Judge Sides With Twitter Over Devin Nunes In Case Over Satirical Internet Cow: Section 230 Removes Twitter From Frivolous Case
from the one-for-the-cow dept
Well, some small bit of good news in the Section 230 front: after a judge was clearly skeptical over Devin Nunes’ arguments for why Twitter should be involved in Nunes’ frivolous SLAPP suit over a satirical internet cow that mocks him, the judge has now announced that Section 230 of the CDA rightly protects Twitter.
In a letter that quickly dismisses each of Nunes’s lawyer Steven Biss’s silly arguments why 230 doesn’t apply, the judge basically says “nope” to all of those arguments and tells Twitter’s lawyer to draft an order dismissing Twitter from the case. Here’s just one part of the letter:
The court must look to 47 USC Section 230 and the caselaw interpreting the act and analyze plaintiff’s allegations to determin if Twitter has immunity under the act. Plaintiff would have Twitter be held liable for defamation for the content placed on its internet platform by others and would have Twitter found to be negligent for not removing the content place on its internet platform by others. Section 230 reads in subsection (c)(1) “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. Plaintiff seeks to have the court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its platform. The court refuses to do so and relies on the rulings in Zeran v. Am. Online… The court in Zeran stated “Section 230 creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service. Specifically section 230 precludes courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service provider in a publisher’s role. Thus, lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable for its exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions — such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content — are barred”.
The judge is also not at all impressed by Biss’s argument of “but Twitter is so biased!” That doesn’t matter:
The plaintiff also alleges that Twitter has a bias towards a point of view and that bias is so extreme that it governs its decisions regarding content that is allowed on its internet platform and that course of conduct makes it a content provider. The allegations in the Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc…. were similar to those by the plaintiff in this case concerning content decisions being one sided and the court in the Nemet case ruled that the service provider was immune from suit pursuant to 47 USC Section 230.
The court finds the issues in this case substantially similar to the issues presented in the Zeran and Nemet cases and applying the rulings in the Zeran and Nemet cases the court finds that Twitter is not a content provider based on the allegations by Plaintiff in this lawsuit. The Court finds that Twitter is immune from the defamation claims of plaintiff based on 47 USC Section 230.
As an interesting side note, the court also cites Section (c)(2) of Section 230, the rarely used part of the law that says you also can’t be liable for moderation decisions. A lot of cases around 230 don’t even consider the (c)(2) issues, because (c)(1) is usually enough to dismiss. But here, the court basically says both of them are good enough to get Twitter out of the lawsuit.
The court further finds that 47 USC Section 230 (c)(2) provides immunity for all civil liability and therefore Twitter is immune from Plaintiff’s negligence claim based on the allegations in the complaint and the courts application of the rulings in the Zeran and Nemet cases to the allegations in this case.
Next up: hopefully the court will dismiss the underlying defamation claims against the two satirical Twitter accounts (Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom) along with political consultant Liz Mair.