Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries
Domen v. Vimeo, Inc.
The Second Circuit vacated its previous opinion and filed an amended opinion in its place.Plaintiff and Church United filed suit against Vimeo, alleging that the company discriminated against them by deleting Church United’s account from its online video hosting platform. Plaintiffs claimed that Vimeo discriminated against them based on sexual orientation and religion under federal and state law. The district court concluded that Vimeo deleted Church United's account because of its violation of one of Vimeo's published content policies barring the promotion of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on its platform.The court agreed with the district court that Section 230(c)(2) of the Communications Decency Act protects Vimeo from this suit and that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for relief. In this case, plaintiffs argue that Vimeo demonstrated bad faith by discriminating against them based on their religion and sexual orientation, which they term "former" homosexuality; deleting Church United's entire account, as opposed to only the videos at issue; and permitting other videos with titles referring to homosexuality to remain on the website. However, the court concluded that plaintiffs' conclusory allegations are insufficient to raise a plausible inference of bad faith sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. The court explained that Vimeo removed plaintiffs' account for expressing pro-SOCE views which it in good faith considers objectionable, and plaintiffs, while implicitly acknowledging that their content violated Vimeo's Terms of Service, nevertheless ignored Vimeo's notice of violation, resulting in Vimeo deleting their account.Plaintiffs have also failed to state a claim under either the New York Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act or the California Unruh Act. Because plaintiffs make no allegation suggesting that Vimeo removed their content for any reason other than this violation of the Terms of Service, plaintiffs' allegations lack the substance required to support an inference of discriminatory intent. View "Domen v. Vimeo, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Bebris
Bebris sent child pornography over Facebook’s private user-to-user messaging system. Facebook licenses a “hashing” image recognition technology, PhotoDNA, developed by Microsoft. PhotoDNA provides the capability to scan images uploaded onto a company’s platform and compares the “hash” (or essence) of a photo with a database of known images of child pornography. Three of Bebris’s messages were flagged by PhotoDNA. Facebook employees reviewed the images and reported them to the CyberTipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as required by 18 U.S.C. 2258A(a), which then reported the images to Wisconsin law enforcement. Those officials obtained a warrant and searched Bebris’s residence, where they found a computer containing numerous child pornography files.Bebris, charged federally with possessing and distributing child pornography., argued that the evidence should be suppressed, contending that Facebook took on the role of a government agent (subject to Fourth Amendment requirements) by monitoring its platform for child pornography and reporting that content. The district court denied his Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(a) subpoena seeking pre-trial testimony from a Facebook employee with knowledge of Facebook’s use of PhotoDNA.The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. The subpoena sought cumulative testimony. The record included a written declaration from Microsoft and Facebook and live testimony from an executive at NCMEC, which administers the federal reporting system. Facebook did not act as a government agent in this case. View "United States v. Bebris" on Justia Law
Spectrum Association Management of Texas, LLC v. Lifetime HOA Management LLC
Spectrum filed suit against Lifetime and Jay Tuttle for trademark violations under the Lanham Act over a domain name. After Spectrum was awarded statutory damages, the district court declined to award attorneys' fees to Spectrum.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's admission of certain deposition testimony at trial and agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the plain text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a)(4)(B) is clear that "the place of trial" is the courthouse where trial takes place. In this case, the Lifetime Defendants were not prejudiced by the transfer of trial venue from San Antonio to Waco, and the court rejected the Lifetime Defendants' contention that the witness was not an unavailable trial witness. The court affirmed the district court's statutory damages award, concluding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion, under 15 U.S.C. 1117(d), in awarding $100,000 for the Infringing Domain. However, the court reversed the district court's finding that Spectrum was not entitled to attorneys' fees in this exceptional case where the record confirms that the Lifetime Defendants engaged in willful, bad-faith infringement of Spectrum's trademarks, justifying an award of maximum statutory damages. The court remanded for a determination of reasonable attorneys' fees. View "Spectrum Association Management of Texas, LLC v. Lifetime HOA Management LLC" on Justia Law
Social Technologies LLC v. Apple Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Apple in a trademark infringement action brought by Social Tech over the use of the MEMOJI mark. The panel held that mere adoption of a mark without bona fide use in commerce, in an attempt to reserve rights for the future, is insufficient to establish rights in the mark under the Lanham Act. The panel explained that Social Tech failed to put forward evidence that the release of its Memoji application to the public was for genuine commercial purposes warranting trademark protection and thus it failed to establish a triable issue regarding whether it engaged in a bona fide use of the mark in commerce within the meaning of the Lanham Act.The panel considered the totality of the circumstances and concluded that, while at the time of its original intent-to-use filing, Social Tech may have had some commercial intent to develop the Memoji application, at the time it filed its Statement of Use, its use of the MEMOJI mark was made merely to reserve a right in the mark. Because Social Tech did not engage in bona fide use of the MEMOJI mark in commerce, its registration is invalid, and Apple is entitled to cancellation of Trademark Registration No. 5,566,242. View "Social Technologies LLC v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Selden v. Airbnb, Inc.
When Selden signed up for Airbnb, an online home rental platform, he was presented with a sign-in webpage that informs the user he is agreeing to certain terms by signing up. Airbnb’s Terms of Service required that all disputes be resolved by arbitration. After Selden signed up for Airbnb, he attempted to rent a listed room and suspected that the host denied his request because of his race, which the host could see from Selden’s profile picture. Selden created two fake Airbnb accounts with profile pictures of white individuals and used his fake accounts to request renting the same property for the same dates. According to Selden, the host accepted both requests. Selden posted his claims on social media where they went viral.Selden sued, citing Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000a), the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3604. The district court compelled arbitration of his claims. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Airbnb. The court refused to vacate the arbitration award. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting Selden’s arguments that he did not agree to arbitrate because Airbnb’s sign-up screen failed to put him on notice of the arbitration clause in its Terms of Service, that his discrimination claims were not arbitrable, and that the arbitrator committed misconduct by failing to provide for sufficient discovery and by refusing to consider his expert report. View "Selden v. Airbnb, Inc." on Justia Law
Idaho v. Gardner
Edward Lee Gardner appealed after a jury found him guilty of the sexual exploitation of children over the internet. Over the span of a year, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (“ICAC”) received downloads of suspected child pornography from an internet protocol (“IP”) address associated with Gardner’s home. ICAC executed a search warrant and discovered that Gardner was in possession of 771 images and 10 videos of child pornography. The State charged Gardner with eight counts of willfully possessing or accessing sexually exploitative material of a child, and two counts of knowingly distributing sexually exploitative material of a child. Gardner pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial. After a three-day trial, the jury found Gardner guilty on all 10 counts. Gardner petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court to ask that his convictions be vacated and that he receive a new trial under several theories. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed Gardner's conviction. View "Idaho v. Gardner" on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. Google, LLC
Plaintiffs challenge the district court's dismissal of three actions seeking damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against Google, Twitter, and Facebook on the basis that defendants' social media platforms allowed ISIS to post videos and other content to communicate the terrorist group's message, to radicalize new recruits, and to generally further its mission. Plaintiffs also claim that Google placed paid advertisements in proximity to ISIS-created content and shared the resulting ad revenue with ISIS. The Gonzalez Plaintiffs' appeal concerns claims for both direct and secondary liability against Google. The Taamneh and Clayborn Plaintiffs' appeals concern claims for secondary liability against Google, Twitter, and Facebook.In Gonzalez, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the presumption against the extraterritorial application of federal statutes did not prevent section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) from applying to plaintiffs' claims because the relevant conduct took place in the United States. Furthermore, the Justice Against Sponsors of International Terrorism Act of 2016 (JASTA) did not impliedly repeal section 230. The panel joined the First and Second Circuits in holding that section 230(e)(1) is limited to criminal prosecutions. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims were not categorically excluded from the reach of section 230 immunity. The panel affirmed the district court's ruling that section 230 immunity bars plaintiffs' non-revenue sharing claims. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the direct liability revenue-sharing claims for failure to adequately allege proximate cause. Separately, the panel concluded that the TAC's direct liability revenue-sharing claims did not plausibly allege that Google's actions qualified as acts of international terrorism within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 2331(1), and that the secondary liability revenue-sharing claims failed to plausibly allege either conspiracy or aiding-and-abetting liability under the ATA.In Taamneh, the panel reversed the district court's judgment that the FAC failed to adequately state a claim for secondary liability under the ATA, concluding that the district court erred by ruling that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for aiding-and-abetting liability under the ATA. The district court did not reach section 230 immunity in Taamneh. In Clayburn, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment and concluded that the district court correctly held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead their claim for aiding-and-abetting liability. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the judgments in Gonzalez and Clayborn, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings in Taamneh. View "Gonzalez v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law
Kinslow v. Georgia
Jereno Kinslow's felony conviction for computer trespass was premised on evidence that Kinslow altered his employer’s computer network settings so that e-mail messages meant for Kinslow’s boss would also be copied and forwarded to Kinslow’s personal e-mail account. The Court of Appeals affirmed Kinslow’s conviction, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted Kinslow’s petition for certiorari, posing the question of whether Kinslow’s conduct constituted a violation of OCGA 16-9-93 (b)(2). The Court found that although the statute in general was extremely broad, the portion of (b)(2) on which the State exclusively relied did not reach Kinslow’s conduct. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded the evidence presented at Kinslow’s trial was insufficient to support his conviction under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and thus reversed. View "Kinslow v. Georgia" on Justia Law
Retana v. Twitter, Inc.
Internet services and social media providers may not be held secondarily liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for aiding and abetting a foreign terrorist organization—here, Hamas—based only on acts committed by a sole individual entirely within the United States.In July 2016, plaintiff and thirteen other police officers were shot and either injured or killed during a tragic mass-shooting committed by Micah Johnson in Dallas, Texas. Plaintiff and his husband filed suit against Twitter, Google, and Facebook, alleging that defendants are liable because they provided material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization that used Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson to carry out the Dallas shooting.The Fifth Circuit held, based on plaintiffs' allegations, that the Dallas shooting was committed solely by Johnson, not by Hamas's use of defendants' Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson. Therefore, it was not an act of international terrorism committed, planned, or authorized by a foreign terrorist organization. The court also held that defendants did not knowingly and substantially assist Hamas in the Dallas shooting, again because the shooting was committed by Johnson alone and not by Hamas either alone or in conjunction with Johnson. Therefore, the district court was correct in concluding that defendants are not secondarily liable under the ATA. The court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Retana v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law
Rhode Island v. Alphabet, Inc.
After Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested user data from Facebook's social network, Google discovered that a security glitch in its Google+ social network had left the private data of some hundreds of thousands of users exposed to third-party developers. Google and its holding company, Alphabet, chose to conceal this discovery, made generic statements about how cybersecurity risks could affect their business, and stated that there had been no material changes to Alphabet's risk factors since 2017.Rhode Island, in a consolidated amended complaint, filed suit against Alphabet, Google, and others, alleging violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and SEC Rule 10b-5 for securities fraud, as well as violations of Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act. The district court granted Alphabet's motion to dismiss on the grounds that Rhode Island failed to adequately allege a materially misleading misrepresentation or omission and that Rhode Island failed to adequately allege scienter.The Ninth Circuit concluded that the complaint adequately alleged that Google, Alphabet, and individual defendants made materially misleading statements by omitting to disclose these security problems and that defendants did so with sufficient scienter, meaning with an intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud. Applying an objective materiality standard, the panel concluded that Rhode Island's complaint plausibly alleges the materiality of the costs and consequences associated with the Privacy Bug, and its public disclosure, and how Alphabet's decision to omit information about the Privacy Bug in its 10-Qs significantly altered the total mix of information available for decisionmaking by a reasonable investor. Furthermore, the complaint adequately alleges scienter for the materially misleading omissions from the 10-Q statements. The panel also concluded that Rhode Island adequately alleged falsity, materiality, and scienter for the April 2018 and July 2018 10-Q statements. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's holdings to the contrary and reversed the dismissal of the section 20(a) control-person claims based on the 10-Q statements.Because the complaint does not plausibly allege that the remaining statements at issue are misleading material misrepresentations or omissions, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5(b) statement liability claims based on these statements. The panel also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Section 20(a) controlling-person claims for these statements. Finally, because the district court erred in sua sponte dismissing Rhode Island's claims under Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) when Alphabet had not targeted those claims in its motion to dismiss, the panel reversed the dismissal of the claims under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) against all defendants and remanded to the district court. The panel also reversed the dismissal of Rhode Island's claims under Section 20(a) to the extent those claims depend on claims alleging violations of Rule 10b-5(a) and (c). View "Rhode Island v. Alphabet, Inc." on Justia Law