The Delaware computer repairman who revealed the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop faces an uphill battle if he refiles his libel suit against Twitter — partly because of a law that shields social-media sites, experts said Tuesday.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act — which President Trump has called on lawmakers to repeal — protects interactive websites from liability for third-party content posted on their platforms.
Houston lawyer Charles “Chip” Babcock said Twitter might seek to invoke Section 230 as a defense if computer-repair store owner John Paul Mac Isaac revives his $500 million libel claim against the company.
“Section 230 has developed a lot of case law and I would guess you could probably fashion an argument that they are protected,” said Babcock, who successfully defended Oprah Winfrey against libel allegations involving the beef industry during the 1990s.
Clay Calvert, a professor of law and journalism at the University of Florida, said that Isaac’s suit sought “to evade Section 230 because it claims the defamatory content was created and posted by Twitter itself.”
“Typically, online platforms such as Twitter can remove or block content that violates their own terms-of-service policies without losing the protection of Section 230,” Calvert said.
Cleveland lawyer Subodh Chandra, an expert in civil-rights litigation, said Section 230 “would likely protect Twitter from suit . . . because it permits editorial judgments on content.”
“Were it otherwise, services [like] Twitter would be awash in porn or other outrageous content,” he added.
At issue is Twitter’s since-rescinded Oct. 14 decision to suspend The Post’s account for tweeting out links to its blockbuster, exclusive reports about e-mails and other information from a laptop owned by President-elect Joe Biden’s son.
The social-media giant claimed, without any evidence, that the stories were allegedly based on “hacked materials,” before caving in response to widespread outrage and lifting the suspension on Oct. 30.
In papers filed in Miami federal court, Mac Isaac said Twitter’s initial “actions and statements had the specific intent to communicate to the world that Plaintiff is a hacker.”
“The term ‘hacker’ is widely viewed as disparaging, particularly when said about someone who owns a computer repair business,” he added.
Shortly after Mac Isaac’s lawyers filed the suit, it was summarily dismissed by Judge Beth Bloom, who ruled that “the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction” because Mac Isaac is a citizen of Delaware and Twitter is incorporated there.
“The sole basis for subject matter jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship,” Bloom wrote.
“Thus, accepting the Complaint’s allegations as true, the Complaint fails to allege complete diversity.”
Bloom issued her order without prejudice, meaning the suit could potentially be refiled.
One of Mac Isaac’s lawyers, Brian Della Rocca, said in an email Tuesday, “We have not decided whether we will refile in federal after addressing the Judge’s concerns or if we will file in State Court.”
View original post