Facebook users who were bilked by advertisers on the service have no valid grounds to sue the social-media platform, the company told a federal appellate court this week.
“To the extent plaintiffs were defrauded by advertisers on Facebook, their quarrel is with those advertisers -- not Meta,” Facebook operator Meta Platforms argues in papers filed this week with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The company's papers come in response to an attempt by Oregon resident Christopher Calise and Nebraska resident Anastasia Groschen to revive a class-action complaint accusing the company of soliciting fraudulent ads.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White dismissed the case at an early stage, ruling last year that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects Meta from liability over ads created by outside companies.
Section 230 broadly protects web companies from lawsuits over posts by third parties, but with some exceptions -- including one that applies when web companies develop illegal content.
Lawyers for Calise and Groschen recently asked the 9th Circuit to revive the lawsuit, arguing that Meta “facilitated the publication of illegal ads,” and therefore wasn't entitled to rely on Section 230.
Calise alleged that he lost around $49 after attempting to purchase a car-engine assembly kit that was advertised on the site, while Groschen said she lost around $31 after attempting to purchase an advertised activity board for her toddler.
The pair alleged that Facebook solicited ad sales in China despite an internal study allegedly showing nearly 30% of ads placed by China-based advertisers violated a Facebook policy, and that Facebook encouraged lax enforcement of its ad policies.
Lawyers for Calise and Groschen argued to the appellate court that those allegations center on Meta's conduct, not the content of the ads.
Meta disputes that interpretation, writing that the claims center on the substance of the ads.
“It is not the solicitation of ads or even their posting on Facebook that plaintiffs claim makes them illegal, but their deceptive content,” the company says in its new court papers.
The 9th Circuit is expected to hear arguments from both sides later this year.