Court strikes down far-right activist’s lawsuit over Twitter ban
A court struck down far-right figure Charles C. Johnson’s lawsuit against Twitter on Wednesday.
Johnson sued Twitter earlier this year over his ban from the site in 2015, after he sent a tweet asking for help to “take out” high-profile Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.
The California Superior Court in Fresno granted Twitter’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, finding that it was a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) action.
Johnson had argued that the ban was a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, and that Twitter’s presence as a “public square” meant the company was not shielded by the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
Section 230 of the CDA protects internet companies from facing large instances of legal liability for what takes place on the platforms.
However, the court found that Twitter had exercised its own First Amendment rights in banning Johnson from the site.
“Although it does invite the public to use its service, Defendant also limits this invitation by requiring users to agree to and abide by its User Rules, in an exercise of Defendant’s First Amendment right. The rules clearly state that users may not post threatening tweets, and also that Defendant may unilaterally, for any reason, terminate a user’s account. The rules reflect Defendant’s exercise of free speech,” the ruling stated.
“Defendant’s choice to close Plaintiff’s account on the ground that Plaintiff’s tweet was threatening and harassing is an editorial decision regarding how to present content, i.e., an act in furtherance of Defendant’s free speech right. Defendant’s choice not to allow certain speech is a right protected by the First Amendment.”