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To determine whether 47 U.S.C.S. § 230(c)(1) applies and thus immunizes a defendant, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit applies the three-prong test set forth in Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc. The defendant thus enjoys Communications Decency Act immunity only if it is (1) a provider or user of an interactive computer service (2) whom a plaintiff seeks to treat, under a state law cause of action, as a publisher or speaker (3) of information provided by another information content provider.
Plaintiffs, Carly Lemmon, Michael Morby, Samantha Brown, and Marlo Brown (the Parents) are the surviving parents of two boys who died in a tragic, high-speed car accident. They sued the defendant company, Snap, Inc. (Snap), a social media provider, alleging that it encouraged their sons to drive at dangerous speeds and thus caused the boys' deaths through the negligent design of its smartphone application Snapchat. The district court held that the CDA barred the plaintiffs' claim because it sought to treat Snap, Inc. "as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1).
Was the Communications Decency Act (CDA) properly applied to immunize Snap, Inc. from the plaintiffs' claims?
No. The panel reversed the district court's judgment dismissing on the ground of immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
The court held that the Communications Decency Act did not immunize the defendant from liability in a negligent design lawsuit, brought by plaintiffs, parents of two boys, who died in a tragic, high-speed car accident, because it was apparent that the parents' amended complaint did not seek to hold the defendant liable for its conduct as a publisher or speaker pursuant to 47 U.S.C.S. § 230(c)(1). Their negligent design lawsuit treated defendant as a product’s manufacturer, and its duty to design a reasonably safe product was fully independent of the defendant's role in monitoring or publishing third-party content. Further, Communications Decency Act immunity was also unavailable because the parents' negligent design claim did not turn on information provided by another information content provider.