Tech Companies Urge Appeals Court To Hear Battle Over Gaming Apps

Apple, Google and Facebook are urging a federal appellate court to immediately review a district court judge's refusal to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that the companies profit from gambling apps.

The lawsuit, brought by people who used online gambling apps, centers on claims that the tech companies promoted illegal gambling by distributing the apps, allowing in-app purchases of virtual currency, and garnering a portion of revenue.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila in the San Jose, California ruled last week that the gamers who sued could proceed with claims over alleged revenue sharing between the tech companies and apps.

The tech companies had argued that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes them from liability for material created by outside developers, but Davila said that immunity didn't apply to the revenue-sharing claims. He said in a written ruling that the lawsuits seek to hold the platforms responsible for the “processing of unlawful transactions for unlawful gambling,” as opposed to the “content of the social casino apps.”

But Davila also said “reasonable minds could differ” about the interpretation of Section 230, and allowed Apple, Google and Facebook to ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in on the dispute.

On Wednesday, the tech companies officially urged the 9th Circuit to do so.

Davila's order “appears to fashion a new, categorical rule that effectively eliminates Section 230 protections anytime a platform’s content-neutral payment processing tool is used in connection with third-party content that is alleged to be illegal,” Google writes in its petition for review.

The company adds that Davila's ruling would effectively force it to review all third-party content before allowing access to its payment processing tool.

Facebook and Apple are making similar arguments, but in papers filed separately.

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