Defamation / Reputation
Johnson v. Steele
Closed Expands Expression
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a claim against Facebook for refusing to remove private images and videos of the applicant posted by an unknown third party. The applicant, Franco Caraccioli, claimed that Facebook was in violation of a number of California state laws. The Court reasoned that all Caraccioli’s claims were based on the fact that Facebook was a “republisher” of material posted by a third party and that the claims were, therefore barred by § 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) which provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an “interactive computer service” who publish information provided by others. Further, Facebook did not become the information content provider and therefore subject to liability under the CDA by “merely” reviewing and refusing to remove the questionable material.
An unknown third party created a fake Facebook profile of Franco Caraccioli entitled Franco Caracciolijerkingman. The profile featured multiple sexually explicit images and videos of Caraccioli “sexually arousing or pleasuring himself.” The fake profile made a request to connect with Caraccioli’s Facebook friends, thereby sharing the content with his personal and professional contacts. Caraccioli contacted Facebook asking for the fake profile be removed. Facebook initially refused the request, but Caraccioli claimed that, after he threatened legal action, Facebook removed the profile.
In September 2015, Caraccioli sued Facebook under California law for defamation, libel, intrusion upon seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, false light, as well as other claims. Facebook moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim in light of Facebook’s Terms of Service and on the basis that the lawsuit would be barred by the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). Caraccioli appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Caracioli’s defamation-related claims on the basis of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”). The CDA protects interactive online providers from state liability as a “publisher or speaker” of material “provided by another information content provider.” In this way, the Act protects the online platforms from liability but does not protect the third party that originally posted the content in question. In order for Caraccioli to move forward with his claim, he needed to prove that Facebook, as an interactive online provider, did not act as a “publisher or speaker” in this instance, but rather an “information content provider.”
Caraccioli attempted to argue that Facebook acted as a “republisher” of the third party content when it initially refused to remove the content. However, the Court disagreed stating that merely reviewing the content of the third party account and deciding not to remove it did not make Facebook an “information content provider” as required to subject it to liability under the CDA. Finally, the Court noted that the purpose of the CDA was to protect companies, like Facebook, from defamatory suits based on content shared by third parties.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) protects interactive platforms, such as Facebook, from liability for defamatory claims based on third-party content. The Ninth Circuit of Appeals reaffirmed these protections by ruling that Facebook did not become the information content provider and therefore subject to liability under the CDA by “merely” reviewing and refusing to remove the questionable material.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The decision is considered binding for courts that fall under the U.S. Ninth Circuit which includes courts in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Alaska.
The decision of the U.S. Circuit of Appeals is considered persuasive in their sister courts and their lower courts.
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