Siding with Facebook parent Meta, a federal judge has dismissed a class-action complaint brought by two consumers who said they were bilked by advertisers on the platform.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in the Northern District of California said Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects the social media platform from lawsuits over ads created by outside companies.
The ruling stemmed from a complaint filed last year by Nebraska resident Anastasia Groschen and Oregon resident Christopher Calise.
Calise said in the complaint that he lost around $49 after attempting to purchase a car-engine assembly kit that was advertised on the site. He said he paid with a debit card, but the merchandise never arrived and he couldn't obtain a refund.
Groscen said 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.
They alleged in the complaint that Facebook “actively solicits, encourages, and assists scammers.”
Facebook urged White to dismiss the lawsuit at an early stage, arguing that it was immunized by Section 230.
“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 wrote in papers filed last October.
White agreed with the company, writing that even if the allegations in the complaint were proven true, they would only show that Meta hosted ads created by third parties.
He specifically wrote that the allegations wouldn't establish that Meta “required advertisers to post specific content, made suggestions about the content of the ads, or played a role in creating the unlawful ads.”
White dismissed the complaint without prejudice, meaning the Groschen and Calise can reformulate their allegations and bring them again. But he added it “seems unlikely” that the consumers will be able to overcome Facebook's legal protections.