United States District Court, District of Columbia
DAWN J. BENNETT, Plaintiffs,
GOOGLE, INC., Defendant.
F. Hogan, Senior United States District Judge
a case brought by Plaintiffs Dawn J. Bennett
("Bennett") and DJ Bennett Holdings, LLC ("DJ
Bennett") for three claims against Defendant Google,
Inc. ("Google"): (1) defamation; (2) tortious
interference with business relationships; and (3) intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Pending before the court is
Google's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint with
prejudice on the grounds that (1) Plaintiffs' claims are
barred by the Communications Decency Act ("CDA")
and (2) Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of
limitations. Plaintiffs have filed an opposition to the
motion and Google a reply. The Court will grant
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
the CDA was enacted, Congress found that "the rapidly
developing array of Internet and other interactive computer
services available to individual Americans represent an
extraordinary advance in the availability of education and
informational resources to our citizens." 47 U.S.C.
§ 230(a)(1) (2012). They wanted to preserve this
development. Id. "The Internet and other
interactive computer services have flourished, to the benefit
of all Americans, with a minimum of government
regulation." Id. § 230(a)(4). The CDA
explicitly states that "[i]t is the policy of the United
States ... to preserve the vibrant and competitive free
market that presently exists for the Internet and other
interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State
regulation." Id. § 230(b)(2). Most
importantly here, ". .. Section 230(c) of the [CDA]
commands that '[n]o provider or user of an interactive
computer service shall be treated as the publisher or
speaker of any information provided by another information
content provider." Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 753
F.3d 1354, 1356 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting 47 U.S.C. §
230(c)(1)). The language of the CDA showcases that
"Congress 'made the legislative judgment to
effectively immunize providers of interactive computer
services from civil liability in tort with respect to
material disseminated by them but created by
others.'" Ramey v. Darkside Prod., Inc.,
No. 02-730 (GK), 2004 WL 5550485, at *5 (D.D.C. 2004)
(quoting Bluemetithal v. Drudge, 992 F.Supp. 44, 49
under the [CDA] is an affirmative defense, but it can still
support a motion to dismiss if the statute's barrier to
suit is evident from the face of the complaint."
Klayman, 753 F.3d at 1357. To warrant dismissal of
Plaintiffs' Complaint, three prongs of Section 230(c)(1)
must be satisfied: (1) if [Defendant] qualifies as an
interactive computer service; (2) if the complaint states
that the objected-to information was provided by third party
users and not [Defendant]; and (3) if the Complaint seeks to
treat the Defendant as a publisher of the content. See,
e.g., Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 753 F.3d 1354, 1357 (D.C.
Cir. 2014) (applying this three prong test to Defendant
Facebook and finding that under 47 U.S.C. § 230 the
Complaint must be dismissed when all three prongs were
it has long been held across jurisdictions that Google
qualifies as an interactive computer service under Section
230(c)(1). See, e.g., Parluzr v, Google,
Inc., 422 F.Supp.2d 492, 501 (E.D. Pa. 2006), aff d 242
Fed.Appx. 883 (3d Cir. 2007) (there is "no doubt that
Google qualifies as an 'interactive computer service'
and not as an 'information content provider'" as
"Google either archived, cached, or simply provided
access to content that was created by a third party.");
Rosetta Stone Ltd, v. Google, Inc., 732 F.Supp.2d
628, 632 (E.D. Va. 2010), aff d, 676 F.3d 144 (4th Cir. 2012)
(same); Jurin v. Google, Inc., 695 F.Supp.2d 1117,
1122-23 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (same); Langdon v. Google,
Inc., 474 F.Supp.2d 622, 630-31 (D. Del. 2007) (same).
Furthermore, Plaintiffs do not dispute that Google qualifies
as an interactive computer service. Plaintiffs'
Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss at 4-5,
Bennett v. Google, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-02283-TFH
(D.D.C. Jan. 26, 2017). Ultimately, the first prong under
Section 230(c)(1) is satisfied.
it is undisputed that Scott Pierson, a third party, wrote the
blog about Plaintiffs thereby satisfying the second prong
under Section 230(c)(1). See Complaint at 1-2,
Bennett, No. 1:16~cv-02283~TFH. In Klayman,
the D.C. Circuit dismissed the complaint where liability
rested on "information provided by another within the
meaning of Section 230(c)(1)." 753 F.3d at 1358
(dismissing the complaint where plaintiff alleged that
Facebook's delay in removing a Facebook page constituted
intentional assault and negligence). The Complaint states
that Pierson provided the blog "DJ
Bennett-think-twice-bad business ethics" and not Google.
Complaint at 4, Bennett, No. 1:16-cv-02283-TFH.
Further, the Complaint does not allege that Google provided
any editorial oversight. Therefore, under Section 230(c)(1),
the second prong is satisfied as Google cannot be treated as
the publisher of any information that Pierson provided.
third prong is satisfied as Plaintiffs aim to hold Google
liable as the publisher of the content. Complaint at 8,
Bennett, No. 1:16-cv-02283-TFH ("As Google was
aware of plaintiffs' complaints [of]. .. Pierson's
blog .. ., it is therefore equally responsible and liable for
the damages plaintiffs' have suffered.")
salvage their claim, Plaintiffs attempt to argue that a novel
issue is presented in this case which requires the court to
deny the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs state
"[b]ut what courts have not fully addressed is where a
service provider, such as Google, adopts definitive
prohibitions regarding the content of third party user
material, and does not enforce them ... [what is] the impact
of such failure on Section 203(c) immunity."
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss at 5, Bennett, No. 1:16-cv-02283-TFH.
Simply, ". .. does it create such an obligation for
itself if it adopts guidelines of what it deems objectionable
content and fails to follow through by enforcing such
standards?" Id. The answer is "no, "
and thus Defendant's Motion to Dismiss must still be
granted. See Klayman, 753 F.3d at 1359-60
(discussing that the CDA bars claims arguing that service
providers must be held to a heightened duty of care based on
adoption of any statements allocating rights and
responsibilities between interactive computer services and
their users). "It would be impossible for service
providers to screen each of their millions of postings for
possible problems." Zeran v. America Online,
Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 331 (4th Cir. 1997). Furthermore,
holding Google liable for establishing standards and
guidelines would ultimately create a powerful disincentive
for service providers to establish any standards or ever
decide to remove objectionable content, which the CDA was
enacted to prevent. See Bluementhal, 992 F.Supp. at
Court grants Defendant's Motion to Dismiss under its
first argument regarding the CDA barring Google from
liability in this scenario, the Court will not consider the
Defendant's second argument regarding the statute of
limitations of the claims.
foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's
Motion to ...