Arguing it's not responsible for scam ads, Facebook is urging a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two consumers who say they were fleeced by advertisers on the platform.
In papers filed Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland, Facebook says it's protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which immunizes companies from liability over content created by third parties.
“This suit seeks to hold Facebook liable as a result of content provided not by Facebook, but by various advertisers,” the company writes. “Section 230 applies to precisely these types of claims.”
Facebook's papers come in response to a class-action complaint brought in August by Nebraska resident Anastasia Groschen and Oregon resident Christopher Calise.
Calise alleges that he lost around $49 after attempting to purchase a car engine assembly kit that was advertised on the site. He says he paid with a debit card, but the merchandise never arrived and he couldn't obtain a refund.
Groscen says she lost around $31 after attempting to purchase an activity board for her toddler, after clicking through a Facebook ad for the product. Instead of the activity board, she received “a cheap wooden” puzzle.
The pair allege in their complaint that Facebook “actively solicits, encourages, and assists scammers.”
Among other claims, the users allege Facebook's ad practices are negligent, and that the company broke its contract with users. The contract-related count centers on Facebook's terms of service, which say the company removes content “that purposefully deceives, willfully misrepresents or otherwise defrauds or exploits others for money or property.”
Facebook argues in its new court papers that Section 230 requires a speedy dismissal of the lawsuit, given that the company played no role in creating the ads.
“Rather than suing the merchants who allegedly defrauded them, or the creators of the allegedly fraudulent advertisements, plaintiffs seek to hold Facebook liable,” the company writes. “But plaintiffs do not allege that Facebook created the ads that allegedly led plaintiffs to third-party websites to make their purchases, that plaintiffs purchased any product through Facebook, or that plaintiffs ever paid any money to Facebook.”
Facebook also says the allegations -- even if proven true -- wouldn't prove that the company was negligent, broke its contract, or any of the other claims in the case.
For instance, Facebook says California law only allows companies to be sued for negligence by people who have suffered a physical injury. The company also says the terms of service govern users' relationship with the site, but do not obligate Facebook to take particular actions.