Section 230

When plaintiff was 11 years old, she was connected to a man in his late thirties using Omegle (a “free online chat room that randomly pairs strangers from around the world for one-on-one chats”). Before the man was arrested some three years later, he forced plaintiff to send him pornographic videos of herself, made threats against her, and engaged in other inappropriate and unlawful conduct with plaintiff.

Plaintiff sued Omegle, alleging product liability and negligence relating to how Omegle was designed, and for failure to warn users of the site’s dangers. Omegle moved to dismiss these claims, claiming that it could not be liable because it was protected by 47 U.S.C. §230.

The court found that that Section 230 did not apply because plaintiff’s claims did not seek to treat Omegle as the publisher or speaker of content. The court observed that to meet the obligation plaintiff sought to impose on Omegle, Omegle would not have had to alter the content posted by its users. It would only have had to change its design and warnings.

And the court found that plaintiff’s claims did not rest on Omegle’s publication of third party content. In the same way that Snapchat did not avoid liability on the basis of Section 230 in Lemmon v. Snap, Inc., 995 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2021), Omegle’s alleged liability was based on its “own acts,” namely, designing and operating the service in a certain way that connected sex offenders with minors, and failed to warn of such dangers.

A.M. v., LLC, 2022 WL 2713721 (D. Oregon, July 13, 2022)

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