Update on Rima Najjar v. Quora

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Dr. Rima Najjar’s profile picture on Quora

KAPITAN LAW OFFICE LTD

P.O. Box 6779, Chicago, IL 60680 • Ph: (312) 566–9590 • Fax: (312) 566–9591 • www.kapitanlaw.net

Status Update: Najjar v. Quora, 19-cv-08472

To Whom It May Concern:

In consultation with her attorneys and other community advocates for free speech and civil rights, Dr. Rima Najjar has decided to voluntarily dismiss her lawsuit against Quora, which had permanently banned her from the website because her writing was critical of Zionism. Dr. Najjar was banned from Quora because of her political opinion and national origin in violation of state and federal civil rights laws. However, she has been advised to drop her suit, because courts have recently made rulings in this area that immunize tech companies for acts of censorship and discrimination, whether or not those activities constitute unlawful discrimination or the restriction of legitimate speech.

Specifically, the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) has been interpreted by recent cases in the Northern District of California to trump federal civil rights statutes as well as UNRUH’s protections against discrimination on the basis of political opinion.

Rather than spend years fighting to overcome these precedents, Dr. Najjar has determined it would be a more effective use of her time and energy to continue to engage in public discourse in support of Palestinian human rights. She hopes the legal impediments to holding tech companies such as Quora responsible for intentional discrimination will soon be lifted so that the internet will be accessible not just to the powerful, but to marginalized voices as well. She will continue to be part of efforts, legal and otherwise, to reform the suppression of speech related to Palestine as practiced by Quora and others.

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“Control of Internet Speech” cartoon

For published information about the suit Dr. Rima Najjar filed, see:

Pro-Palestine Professor Sues Quora for Censorship After Banning [Bloomberg, January 1, 2020]

Refusing to be Silenced: How Rima Najjar’s Suit Against Quora Could Change the Space of Social Media [Palestine Chronicle, January 7, 2020]

Lawsuit: Quora Discriminates Against Palestinian Professor [Palestine Legal, January 09, 2020]

Retired professor sues for reinstatement on Quora after ‘Palestine’ banning [Mondoweiss, January 27, 2020]

دعوى قضائية ضد موقع “سؤال” الأمريكي بعد حظره ذكر فلسطين في الإجابات
[Al Quds Al Arabi, Jan 30, 2020]

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Update: Rima Kapitan’s response to Zachary Parke Taylor’s comment below
(see the whole exchange in comments):

Zachary’s tirades fail to balance the competing free speech issues at stake and makes several other mistakes and faulty assumptions. One major mistake is assuming that simply because political opinion is not explicitly identified in the UNRUH statute that it isn’t one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination. As some California cases point out, the listed categories of discrimination are “illustrative rather than restrictive.” In fact, political orientation is a protected category under UNRUH. See e.g. the CA Supreme Court Marina Point v. Wolfson case and its progeny.

Zachary also assumes that if Quora is held accountable for the discriminatory exclusion of marginalized groups from its website, then anyone can sue for anything, and its attempts at moderation will thereby be ground to a halt. The lawsuit does not challenge Quora’s right to make and enforce rules of civility, however, which is the type of activity the CDA sought to protect. Rather, it simply seeks redress for intentional discrimination. His contention that Quora‘s right to censor speech at will is absolute such that it should not be prohibited from applying its own criteria in an intentionally discriminatory manner is unreasonable because it refuses to recognize the inherent tensions between Quora’s right to moderate its content as it pleases on the one hand, and the right of participants in Quora’s forum to speak freely on the other. If Zachary’s goal is encouraging free discourse, he has missed the mark by refusing to recognize the speech interests on the other side.

Like other places of public accommodation, if Quora wants to open its platform to the public on a broad scale, it should follow basic civil rights statutes.

Zachary also claims that the complaint didn’t present “evidence” that if someone from a different national origin wrote the same content they would be treated differently. Complaints don’t present “evidence,” nor does Zachary employ a legitimate legal standard for his evaluation of the legal sufficiency of the complaint; evidence comes later in the litigation process. Complaints present allegations, and the complaint did give several examples of individuals from different national origins who egregiously violated the same Quora policies Dr. Najjar allegedly violated and did not get banned, even after a human being (as opposed to an algorithm) reviewed the matter.

Zachary Parke Taylor:

If Rima Najjar actually cares about free speech on the internet, she should apologize to Quora and refund the company’s legal costs. Lawsuits like hers, even when unsuccessful, increase the liability associated with starting new platforms and encourage the monopolization of the internet.

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Written by

Palestinian and righteously angry

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