Cohen v. Facebook, Inc.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER, For the foregoing reasons, Facebook's Motions to Dismiss ((Dkt. 23 ), No. 16-CV-4453; (Dkt. 34 ), No. 16-CV-5158) are GRANTED. The Amended Complaint in the Cohen Action (Dkt. 17 ), No. 16-CV -4453) is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The AmendedComplaint in the Force Action ((Dkt. 28 ), No. 16-CV-5158) is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Clerk of Court is respectfully DIRECTED to enter judgment accordingly. So Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 5/18/2017. (fwd'd for jgm) (Lee, Tiffeny)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
STUART FORCE,individually and as
Administrator on behalf ofthe Estate of Taylor
Force, et al..
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS,United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs in the above-captioned related actions assert various claims against Facebook,
Inc.("Facebook") based on their contention that Facebook has supported terrorist organizations
by allowing those groups and their members to use its social media platform to further their
aims. The plaintiffs in the first action (the "Cohen Action") are roughly 20,000 Israeli citizens
(the "Cohen Plaintiffs"). (Cohen Am. Compl.("Cohen FAC")(Dkt. 17), No. 16-CV-4453.) The
second action (the "Force Action") is brought by victims, estates, and family members of victims
ofterrorist attacks in Israel (the "Force Plaintiffs" and,together with the Cohen Plaintiffs,
"Plaintiffs"). (Force Am. Compl.("Force FAC")(Dkt. 28),No. 16-CV-5158.)
Before the court are Facebook's motions to dismiss the operative complaints in both
actions pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1),(2), and(6)(as to the Cohen
Action) and 12(b)(2) and(6)(as to the Force Action). (Cohen Def. Mot. to Dismiss("Cohen
MTD")(Dkt. 23), No. 16-CV-4453; Force Def. Mot. to Dismiss("Force MTD")
No. 16-CV-5158.) Because ofthe substantial similarity in facts and the legal issues raised, the
court addresses these motions together in this Memorandum and Order.
For the following reasons, the court GRANTS Facebook's motions to dismiss the
operative complaints in both the Cohen Action and the Force Action.
Facebook's Social Media Platform
Facebook's eponymous social media website allows users to create personalized
webpages that contain information about themselves,including identifying information,
photographs, videos, interests, recent activities, and links to content from other websites. (Cohen
FAC ^ 42; see also Force FAC fU 94-95, 522.) Once a user joins the website, they can engage
with other Facebook users in a number of ways,including by adding those users as "friends" and
providing feedback to content provided by other users by "sharing,""liking"(i.e. applying a tag
that is shared with other users), or commenting on that content. (Cohen FAC % 42; Force
FAC ^ 523.) Additionally, users are able to view their contacts' activities on the website,
including both information posted by those contacts as well as their contacts' interactions with
other users and content. (See Cohen FAC ^ 42; Force FAC
Facebook users are also able to create "groups" with other users, which allows multiple
users to join a shared website which has its own profile and information. (Cohen FAC ^ 43;
Force FAC f 525-26.) Members ofa group can view, interact with, and share content posted in
these group forums. (Cohen FAC ^ 43.)
Facebook collects data as to its users' activities through the website, including but not
limited to information regarding contacts and group associations, content that users post and
interact with, and use ofthird party websites. (Cohen FAC f 44; Force Compl ^ 528.) Using
proprietary algorithms, Facebook generates targeted recommendations for each user, promoting
content, websites, advertisements, users, groups, and events that may appeal to a user based on
their usage history. (Cohen FAC
45-48; Force FAC T[1[ 529-41.) In this way,Facebook
connects users with other individuals and groups based on projected common interests, activities,
contacts, and patterns of usage. (Cohen FAC % 48; Force FAC
530-33.) Facebook also
presents users with content posted by other users, groups, and third parties (e.g., advertisers)that
is likely to be of interest to them, again based on prior usage history. (Cohen FAC UK 53-55;
Force FAC KK 534-41.)
The Cohen Plaintiffs are 20,000 individuals residing in Israel who state that they "have
been and continue to be targeted by" attacks by Palestinian terrorist organizations. (Cohen
FAC K 4.) The Cohen Plaintiffs claim that they are "presently threatened with imminent violent
attacks that are planned, coordinated, directed, and/or incited by terrorist users ofFacebook."
rid. K 5.) In particular, they claim to be threatened by an outbreak of violence by Palestinian
groups—^which they sometimes refer to as the "Facebook Intifada"—and their Complaint
recounts 54 separate attacks by Palestinian terrorists and terror groups in Israel since October 1,
2015. (Id KK 11-16.)
Unlike the Cohen Plaintiffs, who claim to be threatened only by potential future attacks,
the Force Plaintiffs are the estates of victims(and, in one case, the surviving victim) ofpast
attacks by the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas and the family members ofthose victims.
(Force FAC KK 5-18). The victims were U.S. citizens, most of whom were domiciled in Israel at
the time ofthe attacks. CSee id.) In their Complaint,the Force Plaintiffs describe the attacks that
harmed them, providing a detailed timeline ofthe events and Hamas's particular involvement in
the attacks. iSee generallv id. Klf 156-499.)
Allegations Against Facebook
Plaintiffs in the two actions make substantially similar allegations as to Facebook's role
in their alleged harms. Plaintiffs claim that Palesthiian terrorists^ "use Facebook's social media
platform and communications services to incite, enlist, organize, and dispatch would-be killers to
'slaughter Jews.'" (Cohen FAC K 18; see also Force FAC ^ 362.) They further aver that
Palestinian terrorist groups and associated individuals use their Facebook pages for general and
specific incitements to violence and to praise past terrorist attacks. fSee Cohen Compl
Force FAC UK 111-15.) Plaintiffs allege that Facebook's algorithms, used to connect users with
other users, groups, and content that may be ofinterest to them,play a vital role in spreading this
content, as Palestinian terrorist organizations are able to "more effectively disseminate
[incitements to violence], including commands to murder Israelis and Jews,to those most
susceptible to that message, and who most desire to act on that incitement." (Cohen FAC K 56;
see also Force FAC
Plaintiffs allege that Facebook is aware ofthe use ofits platform by Palestinian terrorist
organizations and their members but has failed to take action to deactivate their accounts or
prevent them from inciting violence. (Cohen FAC K 40; Force FAC K 502-04.) In the case of
Hamas,the Force Complaint alleges that Facebook allows that organization, its members, and
affiliated organizations to operate Facebook accounts in their own names, despite knowledge that
many ofthem have been officially named as terrorists and sanctioned by various governments.
^ While the Cohen Complaint refers to Palestinian terrorists and terrorist groups generally, the allegations in the
Force Complaint are specific to Hamas,and references to both Complaints together should be read accordingly.
rSee Force FAC
118-25.) Plaintiffs claim that Facebook's approach to addressing this use of
the platform has been piecemeal(intermittently deleting individual postings or banning users)
and inconsistent (e.g., deleting offending posts from one individual without removing identical
messages or banning users without taking steps to ensure that the same person does not
subsequently rejoin the website under a different moniker).(Id.
549-55; see also Cohen
FAC nil 40, 61-62.)
The Cohen Plaintiffs originally filed their action in the Supreme Court ofNew York,
Kings County, and it was removed to this court by Facebook on August 10,2016, on the basis of
diversity of citizenship. (Not. ofRemoval(Dkt. 1), No. 16-CV-4453.) The operative complaint
in this action is the First Amended Complaint, filed on October 10,2016. fSee generally Cohen
FAC.) The Cohen Plaintiffs bring Israeli law claims of negligence, breach of statutory duty, and
vicarious liability(id HH 67-106), as well as New York law claims for prima facie tort,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, aiding and abetting a tort, and civil conspiracy
(id KK 107-34). The Cohen Plaintiffs seek only declaratory and injunctive relief.
(Id KK 149-55.) Separate from their substantive claims for relief, the Cohen Complaint requests
ajudicial declaration that the causes of action noted above are not barred by Section 230(c)(1) of
the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230. (Id HI 135-48)
The Force Plaintiffs filed their action in the United States District Court for the Southem
District of New York on July 10,2016. fSee generally Force Compl.(Dkt. 1), No. 16-CV-5158.)
The case was subsequently transferred to this court as related to the Cohen Action on
September 16, 2016, (Sept. 16,2016, Order Reassigning Case(Dkt. 15).) The operative
complaint is the First Amended Complaint,filed on October 10,2016. (Force FAC.) Like the
Cohen Complaint,the Force Complaint brings claims for negligence, breach of statutory duty.
and vicarious liability under Israeli law. (Id
586-620.) The Force Complaint also raises
claims under the civil enforcement provisions ofthe federal Anti-Terrorism Act("ATA")and the
Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act for aiding and abetting acts ofinternational terrorism,
conspiracy in furtherance of acts ofinternational terrorism, and providing material support to
terrorist groups in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A and 2339B. (Id
561-85.) The Force
Plaintiffs seek $1 billion in compensatory damages, punitive damages to be determined at trial,
and treble damages for violations ofthe federal anti-terrorism statutes. Qd at EOF p.123.)
Before the court are Facebook's motions to dismiss the operative complaints in each of
the two actions. (Cohen MTD;Force MTD.) Facebook moves to dismiss the Cohen Complaint
for lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1),(2), and(6)ofthe Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Cohen MTD;see also Mem.in Supp. of Def. Mot. to Dismiss("MTD Mem.")
(Dkt. 24), No. 16-CV-4453.)^ Facebook separately moves to dismiss the Force Complaint for
lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and (6). (Force MTD;see also MTD Mem.)
A court facing challenges as to both its jurisdiction over a party and the sufficiency of
any claims raised must first address the jurisdictional question. S|^ Arrowsmith v. United Press
IntT. 320 F.2d 219,221 (2d Cir. 1963). However,there is no such required ordering as between
questions of personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co.,526
U.S. 574, 586-87(1999); Carver v. Nassau Ctv. Interim Fin. Auth.. 730 F.3d 150,156
^ The parties briefed the motions to dismiss together, and their filings in support of and opposition to Facebook's
motions to dismiss appear in identical form on both the Cohen and Force dockets. In order to avoid confusion, the
court's citations to Facebook's Memorandum in Support ofthe Motions to Dismiss, Plaintiffs' Response in
Opposition to the Motions to Dismiss, and Facebook's Reply are to the entries on the Cohen docket.
(2d Cir. 2013)(holding that courts "are not bound to decide any particular jurisdictional question
before any other").
The court concludes that the Cohen Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims and so
dismisses their Complaint in its entirety for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court finds
that it has personal jurisdiction over Facebook with respect to the claims in the Force Complaint
but that the action must be dismissed for failure to state a claim, as Facebook makes out a
sufiScient affirmative defense pursuant to Section 230(c)(1) ofthe Communications Decency
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Facebook first argues that the Cohen Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their challenges in
federal court, as they fail to point to an injury which is either distinguishable from the harm faced
by the public at large, fairly traceable to Facebook's actions, or redressable through relief against
the company. (See MTD Mem. at 30-32.) The court does not address the potential traceability
or redressability issues, as it concludes that the Cohen Plaintiffs do not allege a cognizable
"injury-in-fact" and so fail to establish standing.
"A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction... when the district
court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. United
States. 201 F.3d 110,113(2d Cir. 2000). "The plaintiff bears the burden of alleging facts that
affirmatively and plausibly suggest that it has standing to sue," Cortlandt St. Recovery Corp. v.
Hellas Telecomms. S.a.r.l.. 790 F.3d 411,417(2d Cir. 2015)(internal quotation marks,
alterations, and citation omitted), a burden which it must satisfy by a preponderance ofthe
evidence, Luckett v. Bure. 290 F.3d 493,496-97(2d Cir. 2002). Courts must "accept as true all
material factual allegations in the complaint....[but]jurisdiction must be shown affirmatively,
and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party
asserting it." Shipping Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Drakos. 140 F.3d 129,131 (2d Cir. 1998); accord
Morrison v. Nat'l Austl. Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167,170(2d Cir. 2008), afTd,561 U.S.247
Federal jurisdiction is constitutionally constrained to "cases" and "controversies," one
element of which requires plaintiffs before the court to establish standing: a "genuinely personal
stake" in the outcome of a case sufficient to "ensure the presence of'that concrete adverseness
which sharpens the presentation ofissues upon which [a] court so largely depends.'" Cortland
St. Recovery. 790 F.3d at 417(quoting Baker v. Carr. 369 U.S. 186,204(1962)). "In its
constitutional dimension, standing importsjusticiability," Warth v. Seldin.422 U.S. 490,498
(1975), and objections to standing are properly made under Rule 12(b)(1), as they are directed at
the court's ability to adjudicate an issue as to parties before it, see, e.g.. Tasini v. N.Y. Times
Co.. 184 F. Supp. 2d 350,354-55 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).
In order to meet the "irreducible constitutional minimum" of standing, a "plaintiff must
have(1)suffered an injury in fact,(2)that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct ofthe
defendant, and(3)that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Spokeo. Inc. v.
Rnhins. 136 S. Ct. 1540,1547(2016)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "To
establish injury in fact, a plaintiff must show that he or she suffered 'an invasion ofa legally
protected interest' that is 'concrete and particularized' and 'actual or imminent, not conjectural
or hypothetical.'" Id at 1548 (quoting Luian v. Defenders of Wildlife. 504 U.S. 555,560
(1992)). Additionally, Plaintiffs must demonstrate a "present case or controversy" with respect
to claims seeking prospective, injunctive relief. City ofL.A. v. Lvons.461 U.S. 95,102-03
(1983), and "past injuries cannot satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement" for such claims,
Vaccariello v. XM Satellite Radio, Inc.. 295 F.R.D. 62, 72(S.D.N.Y. 2013) rciting Shain v.
Ellison. 356 F.3d 211,215(2d Cir. 2004)).
Plaintiffs may, under some circumstances, rely on the risk ofa future harm to support
their injury in fact,
^Deshawn E. v. Safir. 156 F.3d 340, 344(2d Cir. 1998); however,such
injuries are only "actual or imminent" where "the threatened injury is 'certainly impending,' or
there is a 'substantial risk' that the harm will occur."^ Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. 134
S. Ct. 2334, 2341 (2014)fquoting Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA. 133 S. Ct 1138,1147(2013)).
A plaintiff alleging only an "objectively reasonable possibility" that it will sustain the cited harm
at some future time does not satisfy this requirement. Clapper. 133 S. Ct at 1147-48. For this
reason, courts are generally hostile to "standing theories that require guesswork as to how
independent decisionmakers will exercise their judgment," id. at 1150, which almost by
defmition require speculation as to the likelihood ofinjury resulting from the third party's
Moreover, plaintiffs cannot evade the required showing of an "actual or imminent" injury
by alleging present harms incurred as a result oftheir "fear of a h5q)othetical future harm that is
not certainly impending," as doing so would allow parties to "repackage" their conjectural injury
^ The Supreme Court's decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA emphasized that the "[t]hreatened injuiy
must be 'certainly impending''to constitute injury in fact' and 'allegations ofpossible future injury' are not
sufficient. 133 S. Ct. 1138, 1141 (2013). While the Clapper decision acknowledges certain instances in which the
Court previously endorsed standiag based on a "substantial risk" that the harm would occur ifthat underlying risk
"may prompt plaintiffs to reasonably incur costs to mitigate or avoid that harm," id. at 1151 n.5, it appeared to treat
those cases as an exception to the general rule. However,the Court's subsequent decision in Susan B. Anthonv List
V. Driehaus incorporated the "substantial risk" language into its recitation ofthe standard for measuring injury in
fact. 134 S. Ct. 2334, 2341 (2014). At this point, it is not clear when one or the other standard should be applied, see
Hedges v. Obama.724 F.3d 170, 196(2d Cir. 2013), or even whether those standards are distinct,
Ass'n Inc. v. Citv ofN.Y.. No. 13-CV-7212(KPF),2014 WL 4435427, at *9(S.D.N.Y. Sept. 9,2014). While some
courts have applied the potentially lower "substantial risk" analysis in assessing pre-enforcement challenges to laws,
such as that considered in Susan B. Anthonv List, the governing standard for actuality or imminence with regard to
other types of claims is less clear. See, e.g.. Hedges. 724 F.3d at 195-96; Knife Rights. Inc. v. Vance. 802 F.3d 377,
384(2d Cir. 2015). The court need not wade into these questions in the present case. The Cohen Complaint relies
wholly on possible future injuries imtethered fi-om any allegation as to the likelihood or imminence oftheir
occurrence that are insufficient under either standard.
to "manufacture standing." Id at 1151. Instead, the focus ofthe standing inquiry remains
whether "the threat creating the fear is sufficiently imminent," Hedges v. Obama,724
F.3d 170,195(2d Cir. 2013); see also Lyons,461 U.S. at 107 n.8 ("It is the reality ofthe
threat...that is releyant to the standing inquiry, not the plaintiffs subjectiye apprehensions.").
Courts haye broadly rejected claims based on the risk offalling yictim to a future terrorist
attack, concluding that such harms are impermissibly speculatiye and so insufficient to confer
standing. See, e.g., Tomsha y. Gen. Serys. Admin.,No. 15-CV-7326(AJN),2016 WL 3538380,
at *2-3(S.D.N.Y. June 21, 2016); Bernstein y. Kerry,962 F. Supp. 2d 122, 127-28
(D.D.C. 20131: People of Colo, ex rel. Suthers y. Gonzales. 558 F. Supp. 2d 1158,1162
(D. Colo. 20071: cf. George y. Islamic Ren, ofIran,63 F. App'x. 917,918(7th Cir. 2003)
(holding that plaintiffs were "no more likely than the ayerage  citizen to be yictims offuture
attacks" and so their claimed injury was "purely speculatiye").
Application to the Cohen Complaint
The Cohen Plaintiffs fail to carry their burden ofshowing that their claims are grounded
in some non-speculatiye future harm. Despite offering extensiye descriptions of preyious attacks
fsee Cohen FAC fl 11-16),the Cohen Plaintiffs do not seek redress for past actions but instead
seek prospectiye, injunctiye relief based on their allegation that Facebook's actions increase their
risk of harm from future terrorist attacks fsee, e.g., id. TfH 5, 37). This claimed harm relies on
multiple conjectural leaps, most significantly its central assumption that the Cohen Plaintiffs will
be among the yictims of an as-yet unknown terrorist attack by independent actors not before the
court. The Cohen Complaint contains no factual allegation that could form a basis to conclude
that those indiyiduals in particular are at any "substantial" or "certainly impending" risk offuture
harm. Susan B. Anthony List, 134 S. Ct. at 2341. At most, the Complaint shows a general risk
of harm to residents ofIsrael and impliedly asks the court to extract a risk of harm to the Cohen
Plaintiffs based on this risk. Without further allegations, however,the court sees no basis to
conclude that the Cohen Plaintiffs ^'specifically will be the target of any future, let alone
imminent, terrorist attack." Tomsha. 2016 WL 3538380, at *2.
Nor can the Cohen Plaintiffs rescue their claims by arguing that they suffer a present
harm resulting from their fear ofsuch attacks, as "allegations ofa subjective [fear] are not an
adequate substitute for a claim ofspecific present objective harm or threat of a specific future
harm." Clapper. 133 S. Ct. at 1152(quoting Laird v. Tatum.408 U.S. 1, 13-14(1972)). While
the court does not question the sincerity ofthe Cohen Plaintiffs' anxieties, their subjective fears
cannot confer standing absent a sufficient showing ofthe risk offuture harm.'^
For the foregoing reasons, the Cohen Complaint is dismissed without prejudice in its
entirety. See Carter v. HealthPort Techs.. LLC.822 F.3d 47,54-55 (2d Cir. 2016)("[Wjhere a
complaint is dismissed for lack of Article III standing, the dismissal must be without
Facebook also argues that subjecting it to personal jurisdiction in New York as to the
Force^ claims would be inconsistent with state law requirements and due process principles.
The Cohen Plaintiffs argue that they establish an injury in fact because "the Israeli statutes [that form the basis for
some oftheir claims] were passed to protect the plaintiffe and impose a duty upon Facebook." (Pis. Mem.in Opp'n
to MID("Opp'n Mem.")(Dkt. 29), No. 16-CV-4453, at 40.) Their argument appears to be that Israeli law gives
rise to a cognizable injury in fact by creating a protected interest. However,the presence of a statutory right does
not itselfsatisfy Article Ill's injury in fact requirement, which must be met in all cases. See Lujan,504 U.S.
at 576-78. Where, as here, the examining court finds that plaintiffs fail to establish a constitutionally cognizable
injury in fact, the resulting jurisdictional defect is not remedied by the presence ofa statutory right. See Spokeo.
Inc. V. Robbins. 136 S. Ct. 1540,1549(2016)("Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of
a statutory violation.").
^ Facebook's argument against personaljurisdiction is also directed at the Cohen Complaint and raises a number of
valid but vexing questions as to the interaction between New York's statutory scheme for extending jurisdiction
over corporations and recent Supreme Court decisions concerning due process limitations on personaljurisdiction.
rSee MTD Mem. at 27-30.) Because the court has determined that the Cohen Plaintiffs fail to establish standing, it
need not address the question of personal jurisdiction as to their Complaint. Cf Ruhreas AG.526 U.S. at 583-84
(holding that subject matter questions may be, but are not necessarily, decided before questions of personal
rSee MTD Mem. at 22-30.) The court concludes that personaljurisdiction over Facebook is
proper based on the Force Complaint's ATA-based claims, which permit a court to exercise
jurisdiction over a defendant who has minimum contacts with the United States, and the doctrine
ofpendent personal jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court declines to dismiss the Force Complaint
on this basis.
Personal jurisdiction refers to a "court's power to exercise control over the parties."
Lerov v. Great W. United Co.,443 U.S. 173,180(1979). "In order to survive a motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that
jurisdiction exists." Licci ex rel. Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL ("LicciJII"), 732
F.3d 161,167(2d Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Prior to
discovery, a plaintiff may defeat a motion to dismiss based on legally sufficient allegations of
jurisdiction." In re Magnetic Audiotape Antitrust Litig.. 334 F.3d 204,206(2d Cir. 2003)
(citation omitted). In evaluating the sufficiency ofthe jurisdictional allegations, a court must
"construe the pleadings and affidavits in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, resolving all
doubts in their favor." Dorchester Fin. Sees. Inc. v. Banco BRJ,S.A.. 722 F.3d 81,85(2d
Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Establishing personal jurisdiction over a party "requires satisfaction ofthree primary
elements":(1)procedurally proper service ofprocess on the defendant;(2)a statutory basis for
personal jurisdiction; and(3)the exercise ofjurisdiction must be consistent with "constitutional
due process principles." Licci ex rel. Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank. SAL("Licci I"L 673
F.3d 50,59-60(2d Cir. 2012). Facebook does not argue that service ofprocess was procedurally
improper, and so the court's evaluation focuses on whether the exercise ofpersonal jurisdiction
is statutorily authorized and consistent with the strictures of due process.
Statutory Basis for Personal Jurisdiction
"The available statutory bases [for asserting personal jurisdiction] are enumerated by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)." Licci L 673 F.Sd at 59. In one ofits provisions, that rule
states that "[sjerving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction
over a defendant... when authorized by a federal statute." Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(l)(C). Where a
federal statute authorizes nationwide service of process, this provision permits the exercise of
personal jurisdiction over parties properly served anywhere in the United States.
Peabodv & Co.. Inc. v. Maxus Energv Corp.. 925 F.2d 556,562(2d Cir. 1991)(stating
nationvdde service provision ofthe Securities Exchange Act "confers personal jurisdiction over a
defendant who is served anywhere within the United States").
The Force Plaintiffs argue that the service provision ofthe ATA provides the statutory
basis for exercising personal jurisdiction over Facebook. (Pis. Mem.in Opp'n to MTD ("Opp'n
Mem.")(Dkt. 29), No. 16-CV-4453, at 7-8). In pertinent part, the relevant statute states that, for
civil enforcement offederal antiterrorism statutes pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2333,"[pjrocess...
may be served in any district where the defendant resides, is found, or has an agent."^ 18 U.S.C.
§ 2334(a). Various opinions,including two recent decisions jfrom this district, have held that this
provision authorizes nationwide service of process and so provides personaljurisdiction over
defendants who are properly served anywhere in the United States. Weiss v. NatT Westminster
Bank PLC. 176 F. Supp. 3d 264,284(E.D.N.Y. 2016); Strauss v. Credit Lvonnais. S.A.. 175
^ Immediately before its service provision, Section 2334 states that "[a]ny civil action under section 2333 ... may be
instituted in the district court of Ae United States for any district where any plaintiff resides or where any defendant
resides or is served, or has an agent." 18 U.S.C. § 2334(a). At least one prior opinion restricted nationwide service
to instances in which this venue requirement is satisfied. See Wultz v. Islamic Rep, ofIran. 762 F. Supp. 2d 18,
25-29(D.D.C. 2011). Facebook's apparent concession that it was properly served in the Southern District ofNew
York prior to transfer to this court is also sufficient to establish that statutory venue was proper and so that the
statutory prerequisite for nationwide service was satisfied. Cf Wultz. 762 F. Supp. 2d at 29-30; Weiss v. Nat'l
Westminster Bank PLC. 176 F. Supp. 3d 264,284 n.lO (E.D.N.Y. 2016).
F. Supp. 3d 3, 26-27(E.D.N.Y, 2016); see also LicciL 673 F.3d at 59 n.8(2d Cir. 2012)(noting
the ATA's service provision as a potential basis for establishing personal jurisdiction).
Facebook does not argue that service v^^as defective, nor does it contest the holdings in the
cases cited above other than to argue that they were wrongly decided. Given the unanimity of
opinion on the subject, including within the Second Circuit, and the clear language ofthe statute,
there are no apparent groimds to disagree with Plaintiffs' position. Accordingly, the court finds
that the ATA provides statutory grounds for extending personal jurisdiction over Facebook.
Due Process Considerations
Even where statutorily authorized, the exercise of personal jurisdiction must be consistent
with constitutional due process requirements. See, e.g.. Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Org..
835 F.3d 317, 327-28(2d Cir. 2016). The reviewing court must satisfy itself that "maintenance
ofa lawsuit does not offend 'traditional notions offair play and substantial justice.'" Id at 328
(quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington. 326 U.S. 310,316(1945)).
While the required analysis typically looks to a party's "minimum contacts" with the
particular state in which the examining court sits, satisfaction of due process as to federal statutes
with nationwide service provisions depends only on a party's contact with the United States as a
whole. See, e.g.. In re Terrorist Attacks on Sept. 11.2001. 349 F. Supp. 2d 765, 806(S.D.N.Y.
2005); cf Mariash v. Morrill. 496 F.2d 1138,1143(2d Cir. 1974)(noting that personal
jurisdiction predicated on nationwide service "remains subject to the constraints ofthe Due
Process clause ofthe Fifth Amendment"(emphasis added)). The First Circuit explained the
basis for this distinction, stating:"Inasmuch as the federalism concerns which hover over the
jurisdictional equation in a diversity case are absent in a federal question case, a federal court's
power to assert personal jurisdiction is geographically expanded." United Elec.. Radio, and
Mach. Workers of Am. v. 163 Pleasant St. Corp.. 960 F.2d 1080,1085 (1st Cir. 1984).
Applying this reasoning to the ATA's nationwide service provision, courts have
consistently held that defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction for civil claims under that
act where they have minimum contacts with the United States as a whole.^ See Waldman.835
F,3d at 331-334(assessing personal jurisdiction based on defendants' contacts with the United
States as a whole); Strauss, 175 F. Supp. 3d at 28; Weiss, 176 F. Supp. 3d at 285; In re Terrorist
Attacks, 349 F. Supp. 2d at 810-11.
There is no question that Facebook has the required contacts with the United States as a
whole. The Force Plaintiffs allege—and Facebook does not dispute—^that Facebook is
incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in California. (Force FAG ^ 19.)
As a United States resident, Facebook could hardly argue that it lacks the required contacts with
the country as a whole. Mariash, 496 F.2d at 1143("[Wjhere, as here, the defendants reside
within the territorial boundaries ofthe United States, the 'minimal contacts,' required to justify
the federal government's exercise of power over them, are present.");^Daimler AG v.
Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746,760(2014)(holding that a corporation is "fairly regarded at home" and
so "amenable" to personal jurisdiction for suits relating to all ofits activities, including those
outside the forum,in its principal place of business and place ofincorporation). Accordingly,the
court finds that exercising ofjurisdiction over Facebook with respect to the ATA claims
comports with the requirements of due process.
Facebook argues that the ATA cases noted here are distinguishable on the basis that they apply only to foreign
defendants, a distinction they claim has legal salience because "any American defendants would have very different
federalism-backed expectations than a foreign defendant about where in the United States it may be hailed into
court." (Def. Reply in Further Supp. of MTD ("Reply Mem.")(Dkt. 31), No. 16-CV-4453, at 9.) However,
Facebook cites no authority that supports this restriction and, though it is correct that analysis of minimum contacts
and personaljurisdiction under the ATA has been limited to foreign parties, courts in this circuit have applied the
same rule to US-based defendants under other laws with similar provisions. See, e.g.. Local 8A-28A Welfare and
401(Tc) Retirement Funds v. Golden Eagles Architectural Metal Cleaning and Refinishing. 277 F. Supp. 2d 291,294
(S.D.N.Y. 2003); Hallwood Realtv Partners. L.P. v. Gotham Partners. L.P.. 104 F. Supp. 2d 279, 281-87
(S.D.N.Y. 2000). Accordingly, the court finds no reasons to treat this distinction as controlling here.
Pendent Personal Jurisdiction^
"A plaintiff must establish the court's jurisdiction with respect to each claim asserted"
Sunward Elec.. Inc. v. McDonald. 362 F.Sd 17,24(2d Cir. 2004), and so the court is required to
assess personal jurisdiction as to the Force Complaint's remaining, Israeli law-based claims.
"[UJnder the doctrine of pendent personal jurisdiction, where a federal statute authorizes
nationwide service of process, and the federal and [non-federal] claims 'derive from a common
nucleus of operative fact', the district court may assert personal jurisdiction over the parties to
the related claims even if personal jurisdiction is not otherwise available." lUE AFL-CIO
Pension Fund v. Herrmann.9 F.Sd 1049,1056(2d Cir. 1993)(intemal quotation marks and
citations omitted). A common nucleus of operative fact exists between claims where "the facts
underlying the federal and [non-federal] claims substantially overlap[or] the federal claim
necessarily [brings] the facts underlying the [non-federal] claim before the court." Achtman v.
Kirbv. Mclnemev & Squire. LLP.464 F.Sd 328, 335(2d Cir. 2006)(intemal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
District courts have discretion as to whether to exercise pendent personal jurisdiction, the
exercise of which should be informed by "considerations ofjuridical economy,convenience, and
faimess to litigants."
In re LIBOR-Based Fin. Instruments Antitrust Litig., No. 1 l-MD-2262
(NRB),2015 WL 6243526, at *23(S.D.N.Y. Oct. 20,2015)(quoting Getiker v. Jurid Werke.
G.m.b.H.. 556 F.2d 1, 5(D.C. Cir. 1977)).
® The Court does not address the potential state law bases for extending personaljurisdiction over the Force
Plaintiffs' remaining claims, nor it is required to do so where pendent personaljurisdiction is available. lUE AFLCIO Pension Fund v. Hermann. 9 F.Sd 1049,1057(2d Cir. 1993)
("We need not reach the question whether
personaljurisdiction as to the state law claims was otherwise available because the district court had personal
jurisdiction over the defendants under[a statute with a nationwide service of process provision] and die state law
claims derive from a common nucleus of operative facts with the federal claims.")
Those considerations strongly favor exercising pendentjurisdiction over Facebook with
respect to the Force Complaint's non-ATA-based claims. The ATA and non-ATA-based claims
derive from the same underlying allegations and legal theories: that Facebook's provision of
"services" to Hamas assisted that organization in recruiting, organizing, facilitating, and
instigating attacks, and that Facebook failed to stop this abuse of its platform. There would be
no inconvenience or unfairness to Facebook in requiring it to litigate the same facts before the
same court, nor would splitting up the claims between multiple courts do anything to conserve
judicial resources. In view ofthe foregoing discussion ofthe ATA's nationwide service
provision, the court exercises personal jurisdiction over Facebook with respect to the Force
Plaintiffs' remaining claims as well.
Accordingly,the court concludes that Facebook is subject to personal jurisdiction in New
York as to the claims asserted in the Force Complaint, and denies its motion to dismiss for lack
Failure to State a Claim Based on the Communications Decency Act^
The parties dedicate much oftheir briefing debating the applicability of Section 230(c)(1)
ofthe Communications Decency Act("Section 230(c)(1)")to the present dispute. There are two
distinct species of arguments regarding Section 230(c)(1)raised in the parties' briefs. First, the
parties dispute whether the asserted claims fall within the substantive coverage of
Section 230(c)(1). Second,the Force Plaintiffs argue that Facebook is improperly attempting to
apply Section 230(c)(1) extraterritorially. The court considers these arguments separately and
Facebook separately seeks dismissal ofthe Force Complaint's federal law-based causes of action, arguing that the
Force Plaintiffs fail to state a plausible claim for relief under the applicable statutes. (MTD Mem.at 32-40.) The
court does not address this argument, as it concludes that all ofthe Force Complaint's claims must be dismissed on
the basis ofthe Communications Decency Act.
concludes that the activity alleged falls within the immunity granted by Section 230(c)(1) and
that application ofthat subsection to the present dispute is not impermissibly extraterritorial.
The purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is to
test the legal sufficiency ofa plaintiffs claims for relief. Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106,112
(2d Cir. 2007). In reviewing a complaint on such a motion,the court must accept as true all
allegations offact, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor ofthe plaintiff. ATSI Commc'ns.
Inc. V. Shaar Fund. Ltd.. 493 F.3d 87,98(2d Cir. 2007). A complaint will survive a motion to
dismiss ifit contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. lobaL 556 U.S. 662,678(2009)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twomblv.550 U.S. 544,570(2007)). However, even where a claim is otherwise plausible, a
defendant may move to dismiss based on an available affirmative defense, and the court may
grant the motion on that basis "ifthe defense appears on the face ofthe complaint." Pani v.
Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. 152 F.3d 67,74(2d Cir. 1998L see also Ricci v. Teamsters
Union Local 456. 781 F.3d 25,28(2d Cir. 2015).
Coverage of Section 230(cyn
Overview ofSection 230(c)(l)
Section 230(c)(1)shields defendants who operate certain internet services from liability
based on content created by a third party and published, displayed, or issued through the use of
the defendant's services. That subsection states:"No provider or user of an interactive computer
service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another
information content provider." 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1).
The Second Circuit recently described the necessary components of an immunity claim
under Section 230(c)(1), stating that the law "shields conduct ifthe defendant(1)is a provider or
user of an interactive computer service,(2)the claim is based on information provided by
another information content provider and(3)the claim would treat [the defendant] as the
publisher or speaker ofthat information." FTC v. LeadClick Media. LLC.838 F.3d 158,173
(2d Cir. 2016)(alteration in original)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Where a
defendant establishes these requirements based on the face ofa complaint, a motion to dismiss
may be granted. See Ricci, 781 F.3d at 28 (citing Klavman v. Zuckerberg. 753 F.3d 1354, 1357
r'Klavmanirn (D.C. Cir. 2014)).
The Force Plaintiffs do not genuinely contest that the first and second elements ofthis
test are satisfied in the present case,^° but rather focus their efforts on contesting the final
requirement for obtaining Section 230(c)(1)immunity—^that "the claim would treat [the
defendant] as the publisher or speaker of third party content. Under this prong, qualifying
defendants are protected from liability predicated on their "exercise of a publisher's traditional
editorial functions—such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone, or alter content"
that they did not themselves create. LeadClick Media. 838 F.3d at 174(internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). The Second Circuit's most recent opinion on the subject provided the
following guidance as to when a defendant is shielded:
[W]hat matters is whether the cause ofaction inherently requires the
court to treat the defendant as the "publisher or speaker" of content
provided by another. To put it another way,courts must ask whether
While the court does not engage in an extended discussion ofthe first two prongs here, Facebook and the content
at issue qualify easily. The Second Circuit has not considered whether social media platforms in particular are
"interactive computer services" within the meaning ofthe law; however, other courts have readily concluded that
such websites(and Facebook in particular) fall into this category. See, e.g.. Klavman 11. 753 F.Bd at 1357-58;
Doe V. MvSpace. Inc.. 528 F.3d 413,420-22(5th Cir. 2008). With regard to the second prong—^that the "claim is
based on mformation provided by another content provider"—^the Second Circuit has indicated that a defendant falls
afoul ofthis requirement only where "it assisted in the development of what made the content unlawful." LeadClick
Media. 838 F.3d at 174. The District Court for the District ofColumbia recently rejected an argument that
Facebook fell afoul ofthis standard by using data collected from users to suggest other content and users, stating
that"the manipulation of mformation provided by third parties does not automatically convert interactive service
providers into information content providers." Klavman v. Zuckerberg. 910 F. Supp. 2d 314,321 n.3("IGavman I")
(D.D.C. 2012), affd. 753 F.3d 1354 p.C. Cir. 2014).
the duty that the plaintiff alleges the defendant violated derives from
the defendant's status or conduct as a "publisher or speaker."
Id at 175 (quoting Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc., 570 F.3d 1096,1102(9th Cir. 2009))(emphasis
added). This guidance emphasizes that Section 230(c)(1)is implicated not only by claims that
explicitly point to third party content but also by claims which,though artfully pleaded to avoid
direct reference, implicitly require recourse to that content to establish liability or implicate a
defendant's role, broadly defined, in publishing or excluding third party communications. See.
e.g.. Jane Doe No. 1 v. Backnage.com. LLC. 817 F.3d 12,19(1st Cir. 2016)("The ultimate
question [of whether Section 230(c)(1) applies] does not depend on the form ofthe asserted
cause of action ....")(collecting cases); Manchanda v. Google. No. 16-CV-3350(JPO),2016
WL 6806250, at *2(S.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2016).
In keeping with this expansive view ofthe publisher's role,judicial decisions in the area
consistently stress that decisions as to whether existing content should be removed from a
website fall within the editorial prerogative. See Ricci. 781 F.3d at 28; Klavman II. 753 F.3d
at 1359; Green v. Am. Online TAOU.318 F.3d 465,471 (3d Cir. 2003)("[Djecisions relating to
the monitoring, screening, and deletion of content from [defendant's] network ...
quintessentially relate to a publisher's role."); Barnes. 570 F.3d at 1103 ("[R]emoving content
is something publishers do."). Similarly, a recent opinion found that decisions as to the
"structure and operation" of a website also fall within Section 230(c)(l)'s protection,
Backpage.com. 817 F.3d at 21, a determination which one court extended to a social media
platform's decisions as to who may obtain an account,s^ Fields v. Twitter. — F. Supp. 3d ~,
No. 16-CV-213,2016 WL 6822065, at *6("Fields ID (N.D. Cal. Nov. 18,2016).
While the Force Plaintiffs attempt to cast their claims as content-neutral, even the most
generous reading oftheir allegations places them squarely within the coverage of Section
230(c)(l)'s grant ofimmunity. In their opposition to the present motion, the Force Plaintiflfs
argue that their claims seek to hold Facebook liable for "provision of services" to Hamas in the
form of account access "coupled with Facebook's refusal to use available resources ...to
identify and shut down Hamas  accounts." (Opp'n Mem. at 27; see also Force FAC
543-55.) While superficially content-neutral, this attempt to draw a narrow distinction
between policing accounts and policing content must ultimately be rejected. Facebook's choices
as to who may use its platform are inherently bound up in its decisions as to what may be said on
its platform, and so liability imposed based on its failure to remove users would equally "derive
from [Facebook's] status or conduct as a 'publisher or speaker.'" LeadClick Media. 838 F.3d
at 175 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Section 230(c)(1) prevents courts from
entertaining civil actions^ ^ that seek to impose liability on defendants like Facebook for allowing
third parties to post offensive or harmful content or failing to remove such content once posted.
See Ricci. 781 F.3d at 28; Klavman IL 753 F.3d at 1359("[T]he very essence of publishing is
making the decision whether to print or retract a given piece of content."). For the same reason,
it is clear that Section 230(c)(1) prevents the necessarily antecedent editorial decision to allow
The Force Plaintiffs also refer in passing to a subsection of Section 230 which states that "[njothing in this section
shall be construed to impair the enforcement of... any Federal criminal statute." 47 U.S.C. § 230(e)(1).(Opp'n
Mem. at 26-27.) While, read most favorably, this section could be interpreted to inhibit immunity as to civil liability
predicated on federal criminal statutes, such as the ATA provisions at issue here, this reading has been rejected by
most courts that have examined it.
Backpage.com. 817 F.3d at 23; M.A. ex rel P.K. v. Vill. Voice Media
Holdings. LLC.809 F. Supp. 2d 1041,1054-55(E.D. Mo.2011); Doe v. Bates. No.5:05-CV-91,2006 WL
3813758, at *3-4(E.D. Tex. Dec. 27,2006); Obado v. Magedson. No. 13-cv-2382, 2014 WL 3778261 (D.N.J. July
31,20141: but see Nieman v. Versuslaw. Inc.. No.12-3104, 2012 WL 3201931, at *9(C.D. 111. Aug. 3, 2012). The
court concludes that this subsection does not limit Section 230(c)(1)immunity in civil actions based on criminal
statutes but rather extends only to criminal prosecutions.
certain parties to post on a given platform, as that decision cannot be meaningfully separated
from "choices about what[third party] content can appear on [the platform] and in what form."
Fields II. 2016 WL 6822065, at *6(quoting Backnage.com. 817 F.3d at 20-21).
Further, it is clear that the Force Plaintiffs' claims are not based solely on the provision of
accounts to Hamas but rely on content to establish causation and, by extension, Facebook's
liability. The essence ofthe Force Complaint is not that Plaintiffs were harmed by Hamas's
ability to obtain Facebook accounts but rather by its use ofFacebook for, inter alia, "recruiting,
gathering information, planning, inciting, □ giving instructions for terror attacks,. . . issu[ing]
terroristic threats,. . . [and] intimidating and coerc[ing] civilian populations." (Force FAG 1112;
see also Opp'n Mem. at 29 ("[P]laintifTs have alleged how Facebook's provision of services and
resources to Hamas substantially contributed to Hamas's ability to carry out the attacks at issue
and the attacks were a foreseeable consequence of the support provided by Facebook.") Said
differently, the Force Plaintiffs claim that Facebook contributed to their harm by allowing Hamas
to use its platform to post particular offensive content that incited or encouraged those attacks.
Facebook's role in publishing that content is thus an essential causal element of the claims in the
Force Complaint, and allowing liability to be imposed on that basis would "inherently requireQ
the court to treat the defendant as the publisher or speaker of content provided by" Hamas.
LeadClick Media, 838 F.3d at 175 (intemal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also
Fields IT 2016 WL 6822065, at *7 ("Although plaintiffs have carefully restructured their
[complaint] to focus on their provision of accounts theory of liability, at their core, plaintiffs'
allegations are still that [the social media platform] failed to prevent [terrorists] from
disseminating content through [its] platform, not its mere provision of accounts . . . .").
Accordingly, the court finds that the Force Plaintiffs' claims against Facebook fall within
the scope of Section 230(c)(l)'s grant ofimmunity. The court proceeds to consider whether that
statute may be applied to the present dispute.
Extraterritorial Application ofthe Communications Decency Act
Separate fi-om its substantive scope, the Force Plaintiffs argue that Section 230(c)(1) does
not apply to the present dispute because, under the presumption against extraterritoriality, it
cannot be applied to conduct that occurs wholly outside ofthe United States. fSee Opp'n Mem.
at 30-31.) Pointing to recent Supreme Court holdings. Plaintiffs claim that because "the CDA
'gives no clear indication of an extraterritorial application,' under FMorrison v. Nat'l Austl. Bank
Ltd.. 561 U.S 247(2010)], the CDA has no extraterritorial application." (Id. at 31.)
Overview ofthe Presumption against Extraterritoriality
Based on the premise that "United States law governs domestically but does not rule the
world," the presumption against extraterritoriality dictates that statutes should only be given
domestic effect absent a definitive demonstration of Congress's intent for them to apply abroad.
See RJRNabisco. Inc. v. European Cmtv.. 136 S. Ct. 2090,2100(2016)(internal quotation
marks and citations omitted). While "the presumption against extraterritoriality is 'typically'
applied to statutes 'regulating conduct,"'id at 2100(quoting Kiobel v. Roval Dutch Petroleum.
133 S. Ct. 1659,1664(2013)),the Supreme Court recently clarified that,"regardless of whether
the statute in question regulates conduct, affords relief, or merely confers jurisdiction," all
questions of extraterritoriality should be assessed using a "two-step framework," id. at 2101.
The first step requires the court to determine "whether the statute gives a clear,
affirmative indication that it applies extraterritorially." Id, The presumption against
extraterritoriality does not apply if a statute contains an express demonstration of Congress's
intent that the law should apply abroad.
Morrison. 561 U.S. at 255. Conversely, absent
evidence of such intent, the statute can only be applied domestically. Id ("[W]hen a statute
gives no clear indication of extraterritorial application, it has none.")
Ifa statute lacks clear indicia ofintended extraterritorial effect, the examining court must
then "determine whether the case at issue involves  a prohibited [extraterritorial] application"
ofthe law. Matter of Warrant to Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained
bv Microsoft Corp.(^"Microsoft Corp."), 829 F.3d 197, 216(2d Cir. 2016). Accomplishing this
step requires the court to identify the "focus" ofthe statute, defined as the "objects ofthe
statute's solicitude." Morrison. 561 U.S. at 267. From this, the court must distill the relevant
"territorial events or relationships" that bear on that "focus." see Microsoft Corp. at 216(internal
citation omitted), separating those events whose location is relevant to the statute's central
emphasis from those that are peripheral. The final element ofthis analysis requires the court to
assess whether the relevant "territorial events and relationships" occurred domestically or abroad
with respect to the challenged application ofthe statute. Id. If, in the final analysis, the court
determines that "the domestic contacts presented by the case fall within the 'focus' ofthe
statutory provision or are 'the objects ofthe statute's solicitude,' then the application ofthe
provision is not unlawfiilly extraterritorial." Id (quoting Morrison. 561 U.S. at 267).
Application to Section 230(c)(1)
Indicia of Section 230rcyiVs Intended Extraterritorial
No other court appears to have addressed the presumption against extraterritoriality in the
context ofa statute which limits liability or imparts immunity. At the outset, the court agrees
with the Force Plaintiffs that the statute itself lacks an "affirmative indication that it applies
extraterritorially," RJR Nabisco. 136 S. Ct. at 2101, as none of Section 230(c)(1), the
surrounding provisions, or any other section ofthe Communications Decency Act demonstrate
any clear consideration ofsuch application,^Communications Decency Act of 1996,Pub. L.
No. 104-104,110 Stat. 56, §§501-61 (codified in scattered sections of Title 18 and Title 47 of
the United States Code).
Determining the Statutory "Focus"
Moving on to find the statute's "focus," the court concludes that the "object of
[Section 230(c)(l)'s] solicitude" is its limitation on liability. Morrison, 561 U.S. at 267. In
drawing this conclusion,the court turns "to the familiar tools ofstatutory interpretation,"
Microsoft Corp.. 829 F.3d at 217, determining the relevant provision's focus by examining its
text and context.
Looking first to the plain language of Section 230(c)(1), the court concludes that the
"most natural reading of[that provision]... suggests a legislative focus on" providing
immunity. Id Section 230(c)(1) offers only one directive—^that qualifying defendants may not
be treated as the "publisher or speaker of anv" third party content—^which it does not cabin based
on either the location ofthe content provider or the user or provider ofthe interactive computer
service. 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1). This emphasis on immunity over other considerations is clear
firom the text, and courts interpreting that provision have consistently found Section 230(c)(l)'s
plain language focuses on protecting qualified defendants firom civil suits. See, e.g.. Zeran v.
Am. Online. Inc.. 129 F.3d 327,330(4th Cir. 1997).
Viewing the relevant language in the context ofthe surrounding provisions and the policy
goals ofthat section further supports this view of its "focus." Other than the relevant provision.
Section 230 contains only two other substantive provisions, one of which is similarly explicit in
limiting civil liability for providers and users ofinteractive computer services.
§ 230(c)(2). Both ofthese immunizing provisions were adopted specifically for the purpose of
clarifying—and curtailing—^the scope ofinternet-providing defendants' exposure to liability
predicated on third party content,'^ and much ofthe surrounding statutory language emphasizes
and supports this focus. This is evidenced, for instance, by Section 230's stated purpose of
preserving an open and free intemet uninhibited by external limitations,
§ 230(b)(2), and its listed exceptions to the broad liability provided therein,
id § 230(e).
Ascertaining the Relevant "Territorial Events and
In light ofits focus on limiting civil liability, the court concludes that the relevant
location is that where the grant ofimmunity is applied, i.e. the situs ofthe litigation. Section
230(c)(1) suggests a number of"territorial relationships and events," which are generally
divisible into those associated with the underlying claim (e.g., the location ofthe information
content provider,the intemet service provider, or the act ofpublishing or speaking) and the
location associated with the imposition ofliability, i.e. where the intemet service provider is to
Section 230 also requires interactive computer service providers to provide notice to customers ofcommercially
available parental control products that allow for content limitations. 47 U.S.C. § 230(d).
Notes of debates around the adoption ofthe precise language at issue demonstrate that Congress acted with the
purpose oflimiting liability. See H.R. Rep. No. 104-458, at 194(1996)(H.R. Conf. Rep.),reprinted in 1996
U.S.C.C.A.N. 10. The court observes, however, that the legislative intent is not unequivocal in this regard. The
provision at issue was adopted in response to a New York case, Stratton Oakmont. Inc. v. Prodiev Servs. Co.. 1995
WL 323710(N.Y. Sup. Ct. May 24,1995), which held an intemet service provider liable for the comments by its
users, concluding that the service provider became a "publisher" by virtue of having selectively removed content
and so was subject to liability for republishing defamatory comments that it had not removed. Id at *3-4. In
overruling that decision. Congress evidently sought to remove disincentives to selective removal of material created
by that opinion, which it concluded would impair "the important federal policy of empowering parents to determine
the content ofcommunications their children receive through interactive computer service." H.R. Rep. No. 104-458
at 194. Some opinions have noted that the subsequent interpretation ofthe law, which arguably undermines
information service providers' incentives to remove any information by inculcating them against liability for the
content they display, overreads the protections that Congress sought to provide. See Chi. Lavyvers' Comm. for Civil
Rights Under Law. Inc. v. craieslist. Inc.. 519 F.3d 666,669-70(7th Cir. 2008). Whatever the merits ofthat
argument,for present purposes it is relevant only to show that Congress's "focus" in including the relevant language
was on limiting liability, not its reasons for adopting that policy.
be "treated" as the publisher or speaker. Given the statutory focus on limiting liability, however,
the location ofthe relevant "territorial events" or "relationships" cannot be the place in which the
claims arise but instead must be where redress is sought and immunity is needed.
With this in mind,the court concludes that the Force Action does not require an
impermissible extraterritorial application of Section 230(c)(1). As the situs ofthe litigation is
New York,the relevant "territorial events or relationships" occur domestically. Accordingly,the
court rejects the Force Plaintiffs argument that Facebook should be denied immunity under
Accordingly,the court grants Facebook's motion to dismiss all claims in the Force
Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which reliefcan be granted.
The Force Plaintiffs separately claim that Section 230(c)(1)does not apply to claims based in foreign law (Opp'n
Mem. at 31), and argue that their Israeli tort law claims are properly before the court under a conflict oflaws
analysis(id at 31-36). Their argument that the Communications Decency Act does not limit Israeli law claims is
apparently based on lack of any reference to foreign law in the Section 230's subsection entitled "EJBfect on other
laws." 47 U.S.C. § 230(e). The relevant subsection provides a limited list ofexceptions to Section 230(c)'s
limitations on liability. See, e.g..id §§ 230(e)(1)(stating that the liability provisions do not impair enforcement of
federal criminal laws), 230(e)(3)(stating that Section 230 does not affect state laws that are "consistent with this
section"). The Force Plaintiffs argue that failing to include foreign law in this section indicates that Section
230(c)(l)'s grant ofimmunity does not apply to Israeli law-based claims. The court disagrees and understands the
significance ofthis omission to be just the opposite: because there is no listed exception for foreign law claims,
those claims remain subject to tihe limitations on liability provided by Section 230(c)(1). ^TRW Inc. v. Andrews.
534 U.S. 19,28(2001)("Where Congress explicitly enumerates certain exceptions to a general prohibition,
additional exceptions are not to be implied, in the absence ofevidence of a contrary legislative intent."(internal
quotation marks and citations omitted)).
For the foregoing reasons, Facebook's Motions to Dismiss ((Dkt. 23), No. 16-CV-4453;
(Dkt. 34), No. 16-CV-5158)are GRANTED. The Amended Complaint in the Cohen Action
(Dkt. 17),No. 16-CV-4453)is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Amended
Complaint in the Force Action((Dkt. 28), No. 16-CV-5158)is DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE. The Clerk of Court is respectfully DIRECTED to enterjudgment accordingly.
s/Nicholas G. Garaufis
fnCHOLAS G. GARAUl^S
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
United States District Judge
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