Added: Tosha Quillen - Date: 26.12.2021 15:52 - Views: 43854 - Clicks: 8919
Internet Explorer 11 is no longer supported. This is a hard case—hard not in the sense that the legal issues defy resolution, but hard in the sense that the law requires that we, like the court below, deny relief to plaintiffs whose circumstances evoke outrage. The result we must reach is rooted in positive law. See 47 U. Congress later addressed the need to guard against the evils of sex trafficking when it enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of TVPRA , codified as relevant here at 18 U.
These laudable legislative efforts do not fit together seamlessly, and this case reflects the tension between them. Striking the balance in a way that we believe is consistent with both congressional intent and the teachings of precedent, we affirm the district court's order of dismissal. The tale follows. In reviewing the grant or denial of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 b 6 , we draw upon the well-pleaded facts as they appear in the operative pleading here, the second amended complaint. See SEC v. Tambone, F.
Suing pseudonymously, the women allege that Back, with an eye to maximizing its profits, engaged in a course of conduct deed to facilitate sex traffickers' efforts to advertise their victims on the website. This strategy, the appellants say, led to their victimization. Past is prologue.
In , a competing website Craigslist shuttered its adult advertising section due to concerns about sex trafficking. Spying an opportunity, Back expanded its marketing footprint in the adult advertising arena. According to the appellants, the expansion had two aspects. But this campaign, the appellants suggest, was merely a ruse.
The second aspect of Back's expansion strategy involved the deliberate structuring of its website to facilitate sex trafficking. In addition, the appellants allege that Back's rules and processes governing the content of advertisements are deed to encourage sex trafficking. For example, Back does not require phone verification and permits the posting of phone s in alternative formats. Photographs ed for use in advertisements are shorn of their metadata, thus removing from scrutiny information such as the date, time, and location the photograph was taken.
The appellants suggest that Back profits from having its thumb on the scale in two ways. Beginning at age 15, each of the appellants was trafficked through advertisements posted on Back. Jane Doe 1 was advertised on Back during two periods in and She estimates that, as a result, she was raped over 1, times. Jane Doe 2 was advertised on Back between and She estimates that, as a result, she was raped over times. Jane Doe 3 was advertised on Back from December of until some unspecified future date.
As a result, she was raped on numerous occasions. Sometimes the sex traffickers posted the advertisements directly and sometimes they forced the victims to post the advertisements. Typically, each posted advertisement included images of the particular appellant, usually taken by the traffickers but advertisements for Doe 3 included some pictures that she herself had taken. Many of the advertisements embodied challenged practices such as anonymous payment for postings, coded terminology meant to refer to underage girls, and altered telephone s.
The appellants filed suit against Back in October of The operative pleading is the appellants' second amended complaint, which limns three sets of claims. Laws ch. The last set consists of claims alleging abridgements of intellectual property rights. In due season, Back moved to dismiss the second amended complaint for failure to state claims upon which relief could be granted. See Fed. Although the appellants vigorously opposed the motion, the district court dismissed the action in its entirety. See Doe ex rel. Roe v. This timely appeal ensued. The appellants, ably represented, have constructed a series of arguments.
Those arguments are buttressed by a legion of amici whose helpful briefs we appreciate. We review the district court's dismissal of the appellants' complaint for failure to state any actionable claim de novo, taking as true the well-pleaded facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in the appellants' favor. See Tambone, F. In undertaking this canvass, we are not bound by the district court's ratiocination but may affirm the dismissal on any ground apparent from the record.
See Santiago v. Puerto Rico, F. It is through this prism that we evaluate the appellants' asseverational array. The appellants challenge the district court's conclusion that section of the CDA shields Back from liability for a course of conduct that allegedly amounts to participation in sex trafficking.
We begin our consideration of this challenge with the text of section c , which provides:. No 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. A any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or.
B any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in [subparagraph A ]. Congress enacted this statute partially in response to court cases that held internet publishers liable for defamatory statements posted by third parties on message boards maintained by the publishers.
See, e. Prodigy Servs. May 24, explaining that Prodigy was liable because, unlike some other website operators, it had taken steps to screen or edit content posted on its message board. Section c limits this sort of liability in two ways. Online, Inc. Relatedly, it allows website operators to engage in blocking and screening of third-party content, free from liability for such good-faith efforts. There has been near-universal agreement that section should not be construed grudgingly. MySpace, Inc. Lycos, Inc. Zeran, F. The obverse of this proposition is equally salient: Congress sought to encourage websites to make efforts to screen content without fear of liability.
Such a hands-off approach is fully consistent with Congress's avowed desire to permit the continued development of the internet with minimal regulatory interference. In holding Back harmless here, the district court found section c 1 controlling. See Back. Section c 1 can be broken down into three component parts. The appellants do not allege that Back fails to satisfy either of the first two elements. It is to this argument that we now turn. The broad construction accorded to section as a whole has resulted in a capacious conception of what it means to treat a website operator as the publisher or speaker of information provided by a third party.
The ultimate question, though, does not depend on the form of the asserted cause of action; rather, it depends on whether the cause of action necessarily requires that the defendant be treated as the publisher or speaker of content provided by another. See id. Thus, courts have invoked the prophylaxis of section c 1 in connection with a wide variety of causes of action, including housing discrimination, see Chi.
Lawyers' Comm. Craigslist, Inc. Online AOL , F.Backpage post id
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