Social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube each include a “forum selection clause” in their terms of service agreements which provide that disputes or claims brought against these social media platforms must be brought in California’s state or federal courts. Although these clauses are generally deemed enforceable, Congressmen Devin Nunes, who hails from California, recently overcame the obstacle of a forum selection clause in a lawsuit he filed against Twitter in Virginia, notwithstanding Twitter’s position that the suit had to be filed in California.
With regard to Twitter’s jurisdiction argument, the court rejected that as well, finding that Twitter was registered to do business in Virginia, had a registered agent in Virginia, derived a large amount of advertising revenue from Virginia, and had many Virginia residents who used Twitter’s social media platform. Thus, the court held there were “sufficient minimum contacts with Virginia to confer jurisdiction” over Twitter in this case alleging damages to Nunes’s reputation in Virginia based on tweets by users of the Twitter platform in Virginia.
Although Nunes’s suit is proceeding in Virginia, it remains to be seen if he will ultimately succeed with his negligence claims against Twitter. Nunes may have overcome the forum selection clause and jurisdictional arguments raised by Twitter, but it is less likely that he will overcome a motion to dismiss by Twitter based on the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. §230(c)(i), which grants most internet services immunity from liability for publishing false or defamatory material as long as the information was provided by another party. Time will tell.
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For any question relating to this article, please contact Robert B. Nussbaum, Esq. at Saiber LLC.
Rob Nussbaum has lectured numerous times on legal issues and social media and how social media and other electronic evidence may be admitted into evidence at trial. He concentrates his practice in general commercial litigation and appears regularly in New Jersey federal and state courts.
For any questions relating to whether your website or social media presence can be used against you as a basis for personal jurisdiction, please contact Robert B. Nussbaum, Esq. at Saiber LLC.