This dispute includes the web accounts of the Satanic Temple of Washington: two Facebook pages, certainly one of which had 17,000 followers, a Twitter account, and a “google account”. (Apparently the Temple was in a position to get well the latter two, so the dispute is over the Facebook pages.)
Departing members, who had been as soon as approved as directors, took management of the account. The Temple asserted claims under the CFAA, the cybersquatting statute, as well as under state regulation. The court docket finds all of them poor and grants the ex-members’ movement to dismiss (with go away to amend).
CFAA: The CFAA declare is premised on defendants’ violation of the group’s “Code of Conduct” that they had been certain by. Their actions in commandeering the accounts allegedly violated the code of conduct.
Case regulation within the ninth Circuit has rejected claims what place an individual is allowed to entry a server and makes use of the violation of an out of doors coverage (resembling employer tips). It has additionally stated that use in extra of a phrases of service just isn’t “without authorization” under the CFAA. District court docket rulings (3taps and Ticketmaster) say that entry following specific revocation can violate the statute, however the info don’t assist that right here.
ACPA: The Temple’s ACPA declare fails as a result of a Facebook page just isn’t a website identify:
The “domain in question” just isn’t actually “facebook.com/TheSatanicTempleWashington.” The “domain name” is facebook.com.” And The Satanic Temple doesn’t declare to own it. Its trademark lies within the post-domain path, which doesn’t represent a “domain name” under the ACPA. . . .
The Court declines to stretch the ACPA to cowl logos showing in self-importance URLs or post-domain paths.
Tortious Interference: The court docket says that the Temple didn’t handle the entire components of a tortious interference declare. It went with an analogy which the court docket discovered unhelpful:
It likens Facebook to a sculptor and the Satanic Temple’s Facebook page to a “work of art.” It says that Defendants as former “employees,” satisfied Facebook to offer the worker unique entry to the now-ornate sculpture, defaced it, and falsely represented the defaced sculpture as their very own work.
The court docket says the pleading fails to fulfill two of the weather of the declare: (1) the defendants should have had data of the info giving rise to the connection, and (2) some impropriety within the interference.
CPA: The Washington CPA declare fails as a result of there isn’t any allegation that the declare “affects the public interest.” The Temple fails to allege info regarding any of the “public interest” elements.
Defamation: The court docket additionally rejects the defamation declare under the doctrine of “ecclesiastical abstention.” The court docket just isn’t going to become involved in adjudicating spiritual tenets.
The court docket involves an unsurprising conclusion on the CFAA declare. Courts haven’t been sympathetic to litigants who attempt to use the CFAA within the context of a social media possession dispute or in a parody account case. The court docket focuses rightly on the truth that exceed authorization has been narrowly construed within the ninth Circuit, excluding just a few outlier district court docket circumstances what place entry had adopted specific revocation. The selections needn’t handle this, however the CFAA declare additionally raises the query of whether or not the “protected computer” is the Temple’s (or whether or not it must be). Should the platform be the suitable get together to say a CFAA declare?
The ACPA declare additionally doesn’t come as a shock. See my prior weblog submit on the Coventry First submitting what place it sued over a Twitter account:
Coventry First additionally included a declare under the cybersquatting statute (the ACPA), however the ACPA solely applies to second stage domains, and a user-name assigned by Twitter clearly doesn’t fall into this class since Twitter just isn’t a website identify registrar. The ACPA declare is a non-starter. (See Professor Goldman’s submit on Goforit v. Digimedia: “Wildcarding Subdomains Is OK; Reverse Domain Name Hijacking Isn’t.”)
What went fallacious right here? Litigants within the Temple’s place all the time attempt to stretch numerous claims to suit a situation what place the events dispute possession over an account. The early reactions to parody or protest accounts are good examples of this. (See “When Does A Parody Twitter Account Constitute Criminal Identity Theft?–Sims v. Monaghan”.)
What choices does the Church have? If it weren’t a non secular establishment, it may assert a breach of contract declare. However, the Court’s choice to abstain makes me assume this declare wouldn’t obtain a heat reception. It may assert a declare under its trademark or commerce identify. The problem right here could also be to show that defendants are making business use of the Temple’s marks.
In Part II, I’ll recap a case what place a declare of possession succeeded—and distinction it with this case. Stay tuned.
Case quotation: United Federation of Churches v. Johnson, 2021 WL 764670 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 26, 2021)