Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...
A social networking website had no duty to warn a user about another’s criminal activity on the site, a federal district court ruled Nov. 26.
Plaintiff Kristanalea Dyroff sued social network operator Ultimate Software Group Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after her son died from overdosing on a drug he allegedly bought from a dealer he met on the site. Dyroff brought seven state claims against Ultimate Software, including negligence, wrongful death, and failure to warn ( Dyroff v. Ultimate Software Grp., Inc. , 2017 BL 423558, N.D. Cal., No. 17-cv-05359-LB, 11/26/17 ).
Magistrate judge Laurel Beeler dismissed all but one of the claims under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields websites from liability for the content posted by its users. She dismissed the failure-to-warn claim on substantive grounds.
The decision highlights that immunity for online publishers under Section 230 doesn’t apply to claims that they were negligent in warning users. The court deferred to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Doe 14 v. Internet Brands, Inc. that Section 230 doesn’t protect websites from failure-to-warn claims.
But the court dismissed Dyroff’s failure-to-warn claim because Ultimate Software didn’t have a special relationship with her son, which would have created a duty to protect him from the risks of using the site. A holding that websites did have such a relationship with its users would “render all social-network websites potentially liable whenever they connect their members by algorithm,” the court said.
The court rejected Dyroff’s argument that websites have the same duty that brick-and-mortar businesses owe their customers: to warn them of the risks of using their facilities.
“Risk can be more apparent in the real world than in the virtual social-network world,” the court said. “That seems relevant here, when the claim is that a social-network website ought to perceive risks—through its automatic algorithms and other inputs—about a drug dealer on its site.”
Aylstock Witkin Kreis & Overholtz PLLC, counsel for Dyroff, didn’t immediately respond to a Bloomberg Law request for comment. Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP represented Ultimate Software.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bob Emeritz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Full text at http://src.bna.com/uv8
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)