Court Recognizes Facebook as an “Interactive Computer Service”
Facebook entitled to Communications Decency Act (CDA) immunity as an “interactive computer service” — Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 2012 WL 6725588 (D.D.C. Dec. 28, 2012)
This is one of the few (but growing) cases recognizing that Facebook qualifies as an “interactive computer service” under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). In particular, the court finds that Facebook is an interactive computer service when acting as the publisher of a user-created Facebook page.
The plaintiff (Klayman), a Facebook user who is the chairman and general counsel of an organization called Freedom Watch, found a Facebook page titled “Third Palestinian Intifada.” This Facebook page “called for an uprising beginning on May 15, 2011, after Muslim prayers [were] completed, announcing and threatening that ‘Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once Muslims have killed all Jews.” This page caught the attention of the Public Diplomacy Minister of Israel, who wrote a letter to Facebook requesting that they take down this and related pages. Klayman alleges that Facebook initially resisted removing the page, but eventually did so “begrudgingly.” Klayman then filed an action against Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, in the District of Columbia, who removed the action to federal court. The action asserted claims of negligence and assault against the defendants and sought, among other things, injunctive relief and punitive damages of over $1 billion.
Facebook argued that it had immunity under the CDA, and the court agreed. First, the court found that Facebook meets the definition of an “interactive computer service provider” because its website gives its users the ability to create, upload, and share various types of information with multiple users. Second, the court ruled that the allegations supporting the negligence and assault claims are based on Facebook’s status as a publisher or speaker. Third, the court concluded that Facebook was not the “information content provider” because it did not contribute in any way to the contents of the Facebook page in question.
LegalTXTS Lesson: The analysis of CDA immunity in this case is straightforward, but it’s noteworthy for concluding that Facebook is an “interactive service provider” for purposes of the CDA. Not many have cases have addressed the issue. This case joins Fraley v. Facebook, Inc., 830 F. Supp. 2d 785 (N.D. Cal. 2011), and Young v. Facebook, Inc., 20120 WL 42690304 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2010) (both cited in Klayman), as well as Gaston v. Facebook, Inc., 2012 WL 629868 (D. Or. Feb.2, 2012). Note, though, that the status of a social media website status as an “interactive service provider” could hinge on the functionality of the site at issue (e.g., Facebook newsfeed vs. Facebook ads).