The daughter of a mass shooting victim lost her bid to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court that Armslist LLC should be held liable for selling the killer a gun online.
The justices Nov. 25 denied a petition by Yasmeen Daniel to review a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that a federal online publisher law prohibited her from suing the firearms website.
The high court turned down the chance to review the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants websites broad immunity from liability for user-posted content. Several bills are pending in Congress to change the decades-old law as part of a wide-ranging look into how big tech companies police content on their platforms.
Radcliffe Haughton bought a handgun on Armslist and used it the next day to kill four people at a spa in Brookfield, Wis. Daniel said her mother had a restraining order against Haughton that should have prohibited him from possessing a firearm for four years.
Daniel alleged that Armslist enabled illegal gun sales by designing its website so users can search for sellers that don’t check criminal backgrounds, make anonymous purchases, and evade federal and state gun laws.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Armslist can’t be held liable because it didn’t develop the content of the gun advertisement and merely provided a neutral tool to let users search for private sellers.
Section 230 shields websites from claims seeking to hold them liable for content created by a third party. But Daniel sought to hold the company liable for its own conduct and efforts to facilitate illegal activity, she argued in her July 29 petition.
Daniel said the Wisconsin court’s decision allows companies to facilitate crimes over the internet, from gun trafficking to terrorism, as long as one of the causes of the crime is a third-party post. It “threatens to create a lawless no-man’s-land on the Internet in which conduct that could be subject to liability—and potential criminal prosecution—in real space, would be immune in cyberspace,” she said.
The case is Daniel v. Armslist LLC, U.S., No. 19-153, petition for review denied 11/25/19.