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IA Urges California Court Of Appeal To Uphold Importance Of Section 230 In Empowering Content Moderation

“The First Amendment, the plain words of Section 230, and decades of case law empower platforms like Twitter to enforce their community standards and keep them safe for all their users.”

Elizabeth Banker, Deputy General Counsel

Washington, DC — Internet Association (IA) filed an amicus brief in Murphy v. Twitter urging a California Court of Appeal to uphold that Section 230 empowers platforms to enforce community guidelines. In this case, Twitter suspended and later banned Meghan Murphy’s account after warning her repeatedly to stop violating the service’s rules by misgendering a transgender person. IA’s brief calls on the Court of Appeal to uphold the Superior Court’s decision in dismissing Ms. Murphy’s case because her claims misinterpret Section 230 and more than a decade of case law.

“The First Amendment, the plain words of Section 230, and decades of case law empower platforms like Twitter to enforce their community standards and keep them safe for all their users,” said Elizabeth Banker, IA Deputy General Counsel. “It’s critical for the California Court of Appeal to ensure platforms retain the ability to remove harmful content so Americans can continue to enjoy the best the internet has to offerfrom travel and product reviews to social media.”

IA’s brief outlines how Section 230 empowers platforms to set and enforce community guidelines without facing additional liability for doing so. Highlights from the brief include:

  1. Section 230(c)(1) allows platforms to remove content—even if a user disagrees with the platform’s decision—without facing liability for that decision. From the filing:
    • “The gravamen of this case is Murphy’s disagreement with Twitter’s decision to suspend her account. The decision to suspend an account is a classic editorial decision protected by Section 230(c)(1). The CDA therefore bars Murphy’s claim.”
  2. The First Amendment protects Twitter’s ability to remove posts that violate its terms of service. From the filing:
    • “Murphy’s lawsuit unabashedly seeks to compel Twitter to disseminate her speech and the speech of others. That demand directly conflicts with Twitter’s fundamental First Amendment ‘right to decide what to publish and what not to publish on its platform.’”
  3. “Ruling for Murphy would reduce online speech—not, as she suggests, protect it.” From the filing: 
    • “[T]he law would encourage severe over-moderation, severe under-moderation, or even no moderation at all—all of which tend to chill online speech, not encourage it.”
    • “The result would be fewer truly vibrant online platforms for speech and fewer speakers. In short, ruling for Murphy would reduce online speech—not, as she suggests, protect it.”

To read the full brief, click here.

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