Saturday, December 26, 2015

Anti-Slapp in Florida

Anti-Slapp in Florida was put to the test in Roca Labs, Inc. v. Consumer Opinion Corp.(Pissed Consumer). In its original lawsuit, Roca Labs argued that the defendant’s consumer review website was fostering defamation, effectively causing tortuous interference, committing unfair competition.  The defense argued immunity under Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, formally known as Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act.

The court determined that defendant’s posting of just excerpts of the post placed by the user were not actionable.  It followed the case where the court there reasoned that trimming user’s posts for space purposes is not illegal nor does it constitute defamation.  The court distinguished when a post is made by a third-party user.  The court went further in that it cleared the use of tweet aliases and the links to original posts.  Also, it cleared user feedback and rating systems under Section 230.  The court noted that plaintiff’s assertions that defendant allowed for menus selections and drop down buttons were not convincing to sway against triggering immunity under Section 230.  The court acknowledged that posters can be paid to place testimonials on defendant’s website.

The court was not convinced that the defendant was liable under the Fair Trade principles as Roca seeks to impose liability under Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practice Act (FDUTPA).   The plaintiff argued that the posts had an effect and that the defendant refused to remove the posts.  As the court followed the reasoning in Ascentive v. Opinion Corp. it concluded that the liability posed by these claims were specifically precluded by the effect of Section 230’s intention.  Moreover, on the tail end with defendant seeking attorney fees, the court reasoned that by virtue of it ruling that defendant was immune under Section 230, it does not automatically constitute that the plaintiff raised a frivolous suit nor can it find that plaintiff presented a case in bad faith to award attorney fees under the court’s inherent sanctioning power.
Roca Labs, Inc. v. Consumer Opinion Corp., 2015 WL 6437786 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 21, 2015)

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