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Section 230 bars suit against Twitter

Twitter is immune from plaintiff’s defamation suit under 47 U.S.C. § 230. Twitter’s motion to dismiss is granted.

As an initial matter, the court rejects plaintiff’s argument that this is the second motion to dismiss before the court and thus should not be allowed. However, the first motion to dismiss was concerned with venue and jurisdiction. The current motion deals with immunity.

Further, there is no authority for the proposition that defendant Twitter cannot file a motion claiming immunity before filing an answer. The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that federal or state immunity is an “appropriate basis … to dismiss a suit at this stage of this case.”

Plaintiff alleges that Twitter is a content provider and therefore does not have immunity under § 230. Plaintiff “alleges that Twitter’s decisions regarding content that is allowed or not allowed to be posted on its Internet platform makes Twitter an information content provider or somehow the creator of content.”

But “plaintiff concedes that there is no evidence that Twitter or anyone associated with Twitter was present with the author of the content that is the subject of this lawsuit … or … helped draft the content[.]”

Section 230 provides, in part, that “No provider or user on an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

In Zeran v. Am. Online, 129 F.3d 327 (1997), the court explained that § 230 “precludes courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service in a publisher’s role. Thus, lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable of its exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions – such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content – are barred.”

Plaintiff also alleges that Twitter has a biased point of view that “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 same argument was raised and rejected in Nemet Chevrolet v., 591 F.3d 250 (2008).

Based on Zeran and Nemet, the court finds that Twitter is not a content provider and thus, under 47 U.S.C. § 230, is immune to plaintiff’s defamation claims.

Nunes v. Twitter, et al., Case No. CL-19-1715-00. June 24, 2020; Henrico Cir. Ct. (Marshall). Steven S. Bliss, Charles K. Seyfarth, Patrick J. Carome for the parties. VLW 020-8-058, 3 pp.

VLW 020-8-058

Virginia Lawyers Weekly