Citation Edit

Young v. Facebook, Inc., 2010 WL 4269304 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2010); case dismissed, 790 F.Supp.2d 1110 (N.D. Cal. 2011) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

The Plaintiff signed up for Facebook in February 2010 and subsequently registered a personal page as well as various group pages. At some point, Plaintiff came across a page titled “DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL J. JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA, AMEN.”

Plaintiff spoke out about the page and in response, other users reposted some of her pictures with obscene modifications and allegedly subjected her to “hatred, violence, discrimination, threat, pornography, . . . and personal attacks.”

In June 2010, Plaintiff’s Facebook account was deactivated, according to Facebook, because she was harassing or threatening other users, including sending friend requests to people she did not know, regularly contacting strangers, and soliciting others for dating or business purposes. Following an attempt at an appeal, which included driving from Maryland to Facebook’s offices in California, she filed this lawsuit.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Plaintiff, Karen Beth Young, filed a complaint in the Superior Court of California against Defendant Facebook, Inc., alleging claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, for violation of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, and fraud. The action was removed to District Court for the Northern District of California and dismissed with leave to amend.

Plaintiff’s claims alleged that her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated, however, §1983, under which she brought her claim, is limited to actions for remedies from abuse “made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with authority of state law.”[1] Plaintiff contended that the seemingly private conduct she accused Facebook of actually qualified for a §1983 claim because of the ongoing contacts between Facebook and the General Services Administration in allowing Facebook pages for federal agencies. Her motion cited Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority,[2] in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that a private restaurant leasing space from a city acted under color of law in discriminating against African-Americans. The color of law ruling arose from the restaurant’s lease with the city wherein the city was leasing the very seats in the restaurant in which African-Americans were not allowed to sit. Neither Plaintiff’s motion, nor the record in this case, supported any similar connection between Facebook and the State.

With Plaintiff’s constitutional claims rejected due to the purely private actions of Facebook, the court dismissed the remaining state law claims — based primarily on the terms of use maintained by Facebook, which limits its liability and grants it broad discretion in the enforcement of its own policies.

The only open claims brought by Plaintiff seems to be under the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which the court noted in dicta, could be used if a plaintiff established an “arbitrary or bad faith termination of user accounts, or even termination of user accounts with no explanation at all,” which “could implicate the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

References Edit

  1. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (1988) (full-text).
  2. 365 U.S. 715 (1961) (full-text).

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