Omegle, a free online chat site that randomly matches strangers for video chat or text messaging, has been brought to the forefront of a lawsuit filed last year against the service for allegedly matching an 11-year-old girl with a sexual predator. The lawsuit alleged that the chat service was faulty and displayed falsely.
However, Omegle went to court to dismiss all eight claims, ruling that each of the claims in the lawsuit was barred under the immunity provision of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), 47 USC § 230(c) (1) (“Section 230”), which was granted by the court.
For the inexperienced, Section 230 is a section of Title 47 of the United States Code, enacted as part of the United States Communications Decency Act (CDA) passed in 1996. Section 230 of the CDA says an “interactive computer service” cannot be covered as the publisher or speaker of third-party content. It generally provides immunity to website platforms to protect against lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, with exceptions for pirated and prostitution-related material.
Now a district judge in Portland, Oregon has ruled that Omegle is not immune under Section 230 and can be held responsible for the damage caused by his platform.
Judge Michael Mosman ruled that, unlike many Section 230 cases, the lawsuit, AM v. Omegle, specifically targeting Omelge’s design of the platform rather than the content on the site. He said the chat service could have stated that they “designed a product in such a way that it does not suit minors and adults”.
“Omegle could have fulfilled its alleged obligation…by designing its product differently, for example by designing a product so that it wouldn’t coincide with minors and adults,” Mosman wrote.
“What matters for those claims is that the warnings or the design of the product in question led to the interaction between an 11-year-old girl and a sexual predator in her thirties.”
In his statement, Mosman also quotes: Lemmon v. Snap, a case with similar foundations to Omegle’s. In that case, Snap was sued by the family of a 20-year-old who crashed his car while using a Snapchat filter that allegedly encouraged reckless driving to reach unsafe speeds that led to car accidents.
Mosman’s ruling is merely a response to Omegle’s motion to dismiss the case under Section 230, meaning the case, AM v. Omegle, has not yet been completed.
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