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Somersworth Cafe Owner Challenges Facebook at N.H. Supreme Court

Annie Ropeik

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a contract dispute between a local business and the social media giant Facebook.

The case centers on the Instagram account of Teatotaller, a Somersworth cafe owned by Emmett Soldati.

Soldati, who’s also running for Executive Council, represented himself in the appeal. He says Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – unfairly deleted his paid business account in 2018.

He still doesn't know why it happened, and Facebook’s lawyers say they don’t either.

Soldati took the case to small claims court, as directed by Facebook’s terms of use.

But there, he says, the company claimed immunity under a federal communications law and argued against giving him the monetary damages offered in their contract.

Soldati argues that makes the agreement illegal under New Hampshire's constitution.

"That is fraudulent and prohibited – this idea that there's this pinhole recourse that we have as an individual user,” he says. “That – even when we've paid them – that really it turns out there's no recourse at all."

Facebook’s attorney defended the immunity claim and told the Supreme Court justices that Soldati has no recourse in this case.

But Soldati wants the matter sent back to a lower court for a more in-depth hearing and consideration of potential damages.

"We would never have entered into a contract – we would never have paid this service for something – if we thought, at the end of the day, we couldn't at least get [that money] back,” he says.

It could be weeks or months before the Supreme Court rules in the case.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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