Private censorship and Section 230

I argued via videoconference this morning at the California Court of Appeal on whether Section 230 immunizes internet platforms from contract liability when they deactivate a user’s account without good cause (in a manner that breaches the contract between the platform and the user).

In that case, Murphy v. Twitter, the platform booted my client off, claiming she misgendered someone else (J. Yaniv) in a Tweet that contained the words “Yeeeah it’s him.” According to Twitter that constituted harassment.

The court hasn’t issued an opinion yet, but from its line of questioning I gather that Twitter, FB, and like may soon be deemed immune even from breaching their own contracts with users and other generally applicable laws (unfair competition, etc.)…though the fight may continue on into other courts, whatever the outcome.

Regardless, courts are running amok all over the country on the scope of Section 230. Tech companies have very broad immunity under 230, there’s no denying it, and for the most I think that’s a good thing. But if parties can’t even bind each other to their agreements by making use of the government’s monopolized court apparatus, I think we may see the utility of social media decline pretty quickly and groups continue to fragment and isolate themselves among like-minded folks.

I don’t know how this ship gets righted, but I hope it happens soon.