Facebook in your soup?

Eric Goldman makes an interesting point about too-clever-by-half lawyering (“what the hell, let’s throw everyone in”) that’s actually pretty stupid.  I’ve highlighted that point at the bottom:

A New York teenager has sued Facebook and four Facebook users (plus their parents) for allegedly defamatory content posted in a private Facebook group called “90 Cents Short of a Dollar.”

This case fits neatly with other legal battles over “cyber-bullying” (whatever that means), such as the AutoAdmit lawsuits, the Sandler case and the Lori Drew case. (For another recent and troubling example of cyber-bullying that I read just this morning, see Wolfe v. Fayetteville, Arkansas School Dist., 2009 WL 485400 (W.D. Ark. Feb. 26, 2009)).

In this case, the plaintiff’s school peers said some not-nice things about her in a private Facebook page. . . .

With respect to the claim against Facebook, this lawsuit is unquestionably DOA. Frankly, I’m not sure why the plaintiff bothered to sue Facebook. Facebook is completely immunized per 47 USC 230, and this should be an easy dismissal. The complaint didn’t even try to do anything fancy to get around 230; in fact, the complaint alleges that Facebook “published” the content, the absolutely wrong allegation to make if you’re trying to bypass 230. I think it significantly detracts from the sympathy we might otherwise feel for plaintiff for her to have futilely dragged Facebook into the lawsuit. And, it ensures there will be at least one aggressive defendant in the lawsuit.

Possible, give-the-lawyer-the-benefit-of-the-doubt, real-world answer:  The client insisted on it.  More likely real-world answer?   No one has any intention of litigating this, just scaring the hell out of a bunch of kids and their parents… and guaranteeing years of worse agony, online and otherwise, for the plaintiff.

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Ron Coleman

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5 thoughts on “Facebook in your soup?

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  2. Or the most logical real-world answer – plaintiff’s lawyers had no idea about 230. Call me cynical.

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