Facebook Not Liable for 'Insufficiently Prompt' Removal of 3rd Party Content

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on June 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Plaintiff-appellant Larry Klayman found a page on Facebook three years ago entitled "Third Palestinian Intifada." The page "called for Muslims to rise up and kill the Jewish people." Klayman contacted Facebook to remove the page, which it subsequently did, but apparently not quickly enough, reports Business Insurance.

Klayman sued Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg (collectively "Facebook") for intentional assault and negligent breach of a duty of care that allegedly, Facebook owed Klayman.

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The Communications Decency Act of 1996

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 ("Act"), codified at 47 U.S.C. § 230, was enacted to enable the U.S. policy to "promote the continued development of the Internet" so as "to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation." To further these goals, the Act shields providers from liability for the expressions of users. That is, the Act differentiates between the Internet platform and the speaker, noting that they are not one and the same.

Facebook's "Insufficiently Prompt" Removal

Klayman sued Facebook because according to him, Facebook was insufficiently prompt in its removal of the Third Palestinian Intifada page, because the pages "amount[ed] to a threat of the use of force against non-Muslims, and particularly Jews," which caused him "reasonable apprehension of severe bodily harm and/or death," he stated in his complaint. In his prayer for relief, Klayman sought an injunction preventing Facebook to allow the Intifada, and other pages, to exist. He also sought over $1 billion dollars in punitive and compensatory damages.

Third Party Content

The district court dismissed the compliant, and the D.C. Circuit affirmed. The D.C. Circuit noted that the Act provided an affirmative defense, and in this case, "even under a generous reading of the complaint, the Communications Decency Act forbids this suit." Though no groundbreaking precedent here, the court reiterated the policy and law that enables social media sites like Facebook to exist. Without the Act, there would be a debilitating effect that would open Internet publishers up to unwarranted liability.

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