LinkedIn Argues It Has Free Speech Right To Email Users' Friends

Social networking service LinkedIn is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the company of misappropriating users' names and images in order to grow its members.

The lawsuit, filed one year ago as a potential class-action, centers on allegations that LinkedIn emails users' friends with invitations to join the service. The consumers who are suing say that LinkedIn violated a California law about endorsements by using their names and images in emails to their friends.

That law, which provides for damages of up to $750 per incident, was also at the center of a class-action alleging that Facebook's “sponsored stories” ads misappropriate users' identities. Facebook agreed to settle the matter for $20 million.

The consumers initially alleged that the company violated the federal wiretap law by “hacking” into their accounts, in order to harvest their friends' email addresses.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif. rejected that claim in June. Koh said at the time that the users agreed to transmit an initial email invitation to their friends, but not necessarily two follow-up emails.

LinkedIn now argues in court papers filed this week that it has a free-speech right to send follow-up emails, on the theory that the service helps people to communicate with each other.

“As a platform for creating professional networks of people, LinkedIn promotes the rights of speech and association guaranteed by the First Amendment,” the company says in a new motion seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. “Accordingly, reminder emails, which refer recipients to communications from LinkedIn members expressing their desire to connect ... facilitate associations among people and therefore concern matters of public interest.”

The company adds that California's law regulating endorsements doesn't apply if it would conflict with free-speech protections that guarantee people's right to discuss matters of public concern.

“Reminder emails concern matters of public interest that outweigh plaintiffs’ asserted economic interests, and therefore constitute activity protected by the First Amendment,” LinkedIn says.

3 comments about "LinkedIn Argues It Has Free Speech Right To Email Users' Friends".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, September 19, 2014 at 4:37 p.m.

    Until recently, I visited and used LinkedIn daily. At first I was amazed at how the site was able to cross-reference people I may have met once, or whom I knew years ago in their emailed updates, most of whom I had never named online. Then, it began to get a bit creepy, so I stopped posting there. Their emails stopped shortly afterwards. It was so sudden that I think some legal issues may have been involved in their sudden silence. I guess there is such a thing as too much information.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 19, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.

    Free speech means you say something without going to jail. It doesn't mean you can spy on people and send those people messages.

  3. Lizz Gunnufsen from Local Government, September 22, 2014 at 1:24 p.m.

    Totally agree. I have a former contractor who I talk to occasionally. Whenever I do, he comes up as someone I might know, even though my phone number isn't in my account. LinkedIn is really creepy.

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