Social Networking Websites: Content Provided by Third Parties
Doe II v. MySpace Incorporated, (Second District, June 30, 2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 561, 96 Cal.Rptr.3d 148, 09 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 8401, 2009 Daily Journal D.A.R. 9774
Four minor females filed separate lawsuits against the social networking website, MySpace.com, alleging that they had all been sexually assaulted by adults whom they had met on the website. The plaintiffs alleged that MySpace was aware that its website poses a danger to children by facilitating attempted and actual sexual assault, and that MySpace failed to institute reasonable measures to prevent older users from directly searching out, finding, and/or communicating with minors.
The defendant demurred to complaints based upon the immunity provisions of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. §230), which immunizes interactive computer services providers who are not information content providers from liability for information originating from third-party users of their service. The trial court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend and the court of appeal affirmed, holding that MySpace is not an information content provider, and is not liable for content provided by third-party users:
“Given the general consensus to interpret section 230 immunity broadly, extending from Zeran to the Fifth Circuit’s opinion in Doe v. MySpace, Inc. addressing identical facts and legal issues, we also conclude that section 230 immunity shields MySpace in this case. That appellants characterize their complaint as one for failure to adopt reasonable safety measures does not avoid the immunity granted by section 230. It is undeniable that appellants seek to hold MySpace responsible for the communications between the Julie Does and their assailants.
At its core, appellants want MySpace to regulate what appears on its Web site. Appellants argue they do not “allege liability on account of MySpace’s exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions, such as editing, altering, or deciding whether or not to publish certain material, which is the test for whether a claim treats a website as a publisher under Barrett.” But that is precisely what they allege; that is, they want MySpace to ensure that sexual predators do not gain access to (i.e., communicate with) minors on its Web site. That type of activity-to restrict or make available certain material-is expressly covered by section 230.”