Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Informed. Empowered. Sustained by you. Support NHPR this election season and become a sustaining member today.

State Supreme Court Sides With Somersworth Café In Fight Against Facebook

via Instagram

A Somersworth café has won its state Supreme Court challenge against Facebook, in a unanimous ruling Friday that sends the contract dispute back to a district court.

Emmett Soldati, owner of the Teatotaller café, challenged Facebook in Dover’s small claims court, saying he was owed damages after the company deleted the café’s Instagram account in 2018.

Support NHPR's newsroom. Become a member today.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, claimed immunity from the challenge under its terms of use and a federal communications law that says online publishing platforms aren’t liable in any way for content posted by users – including for the deletion of that content.

The small claims court sided with Facebook and dismissed the case, prompting Soldati's appeal.

Now, the state Supreme Court says the lower court made the wrong call. They say the immunity argument is not clear and the lower court shouldn’t have dismissed the case up front.

It meant validation for Soldati, after months waiting for the ruling, while the pandemic all but shut down his business.

“What we did…was demonstrate that we do have rights as users – that social media companies, big tech companies, cannot hide behind federal statutes…to suggest that they are simply these publishing companies that have no obligations,” he says.

Soldati, who's also running for Executive Council, says whatever ends up happening when the case returns to district court, “This is a victory in holding big tech accountable, and holding them accountable specifically to their users, which is how they make their money.” 

Facebook declined to comment on the ruling.  

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.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.