Twitter Can Ban Racists, California Court Rules
Last November, Twitter updated its rules and policies, adding that users "may not affiliate with organization that -- whether by their own statements or activity both on and off the platform -- use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes."
One month later, Jared Taylor, a publisher of white nationalist content, was booted off the platform. He then brought three claims against Twitter. Two were dismissed by the California Superior Court, but one was allowed to move forward -- that was an unfair competition claim. That court reasoned that Twitter is a monumental platform for expressing political views, and that banning someone from it may be unfair, and even unconscionable.
Now, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court was wrong. Taylor's third claim should also be dismissed. In other words: Twitter can fully ban racists from its platform.
CDA 230 -- the Law of the Cloud
Many legal experts were shocked at the lower court's ruling that allowed Taylor's suit against Twitter to continue. It flew in the face of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, specifically CDA Section 230, which states that no provider may be liable for "any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected."
This law, which trumps California law, should have made Twitter's decision to ban Taylor completely within the purview of the law. No questions asked. That is why many, including the California Court of Appeals, were shocked with this ruling.
Writ of Mandate -- a Unicorn in the Legal Field
Twitter asked the California Court of Appeals for a writ of mandate, which is very rare. This is when you ask a court to order a government group, in this instance the lower court, to follow the law by correcting its prior actions. It's basically telling the judge that he or she has misunderstood the law governing the issue. That leaves the lower court with proverbial egg on their face, and even lawyers have some professional courtesy. Increasingly more rare, the appeals court approved the request.
And in what is truly a monumental move, the court didn't even invite Taylor to respond. In issuing a writ of mandate, this overturns the lower court's refusal to dismiss this third claim. The appeals court was sending an obvious message to the plaintiff: feel free to appeal this to our court. We have pretty clearly signaled to you how we feel.
Taylor's lawyers say they plan to appeal, but these "must carry" lawsuits have been struck down time and time again.
Find a Communications and Media Lawyer Near You (FindLaw Lawyer's Directory)
California Cannabis Website Invokes CDA (FindLaw Technologist Blog)
Is Twitter a Public Forum? (FindLaw Technologist Blog)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.