The owner of a small cafe in one of the state’s smallest cities has taken on the largest social media company in the world and won this round.
On July 24, the NH Supreme Court ruled in favor of small business owner Emmett Soldati (pictured) in his case against Facebook.
Soldati argued as a pro se litigant in early March after having appealed a lower court’s dismissal of the case.
Soldati originally brought his claim against Facebook in 2018 after the social media behemoth deleted an Instagram account of his business, Teatotaller a cafe in Somersworth. Facebook argued that Teatotaller’s claims are barred under the Communications Decency Act, claiming it immunizes Facebook from being held liable for deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content.
Soldati says his job in court was to explain why Facebook needs to come to the table and not hide behind vague statutes.
He argued his right to a trial on grounds of breach of contract, and the four NH Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed, reversing the small claims court dismissal.
“I am not shocked that we won,” says Soldati of a decision that could have national implications. “When I had my opportunity to make my case, I think Facebook was shocked at how prepared I was, and the judges were surprised how prepared Facebook wasn’t.”
Soldati says most similar cases are dismissed by lower courts. The NH Supreme Court is the highest level court, nationwide, to rule on this.
He says he expects Facebook to continue its fight to avoid culpability. And while small claims are monetary and he did ask for relief, he says he made it clear the reason he filed the claim is to get the account back.
“We never wanted to take Facebook to court, we tried to get in touch with them in numerous ways. In court [attorneys for Facebook] said they have no clue why the account got deleted,” Soldati says. “It just feels wrong. If you’re a business and if you can’t tell a customer why you mishandled their product or property, you should be held to account for it.”
He calls his victory a win for all those, “who have felt helpless against the abuse of power of big tech. Their days of trampling the rights of individual users are coming to a close, and I’m proud to have played a small role in holding them accountable.”