La Liberte spoke at a city council meeting. A photo of her speech went viral because a “social media activist” published the photo with the caption that she said it said racist things about a minority teenager. That turned out to be wrong. Nevertheless, MSNBC TV presenter Joy Reid retweeted the first post (which is not up for debate in this case). then she made two separate posts about the photo, each claiming that La Liberte made racist statements about teenagers. La Liberte sued Reid for defamation.
Reid referred to section 230, but the problem is fairly simple. Reid wrote only the two posts, repeating the claims she saw elsewhere. So it's the ICP in the equation.
To get around this, Reid argued that her post "only repeated what numerous others had previously published, including Vargas and at least eight others who specifically stated that La Liberte had committed racist insults at the council meeting".
No wonder the Second Circuit is destroying:
In fact, Reid argues that a plaintiff can only sue the first slanderer. If so, a post from an obscure social media user with few followers who blogs in the niches of the Internet would allow everyone else to stack up without consequence. Nobody's reputation would be worth anything.
The Internet is enough of a cesspool. Granting Section 230 immunity to repetition of unbelievable rumors or allegations from stray corners of the Internet would lead to anarchy. This Section 230 defense was never credible and really not worth it.
Reid also argued that she made no significant illegal contribution in her contributions. This doctrine helps in a number of Section 230 cases, but not when everyone agrees that Reid wrote their own contributions.
The opinion contains some other interesting points, including:
- The Second Circuit decides that California's anti-SLAPP laws do not apply to its federal courts. There is a division of the circuit on this issue and we urgently need a federal law against SLAPP to close this gap in protection against SLAPP.
- Despite her statements at several council meetings, La Liberte did not qualify as a public figure with a limited purpose, as she did not have regular and continuous access to the media.
The district court had granted Reid's motion to be released. The court picked it up and sent the case back to the lower court for further processing.
Case quote: La Liberte vs. Reid, 2020 WL 3980223 (2d Cir. July 15, 2020)