Narcisi v. Turtleboy Digital Marketing, LLC,No. 2019-08-0329-JJM-PAS (D. R.I.)
An online kerfuflle erupted when Aidan Kearney, owner of Worcester Digital Marketing, formerly Turtleboy Digital Marketing, posted material critical of Narcisi, a Rhode Island resident and website operator.
Narcisi sued for defamation in Rhode Island state court, claiming that Turtleboy defamed plaintiff and plaintiff’s business interests. Narcisi claimed that following postings on Turtleboy’s site, Narcisi received unwanted commentary and messages from Turtleboy’s followers.
Narcisis sought and obtained an ex parte order forbidding contact and requiring take down of existing posts.
On May 16, 2019, apparently without notice to Turtleboy, the Rhode Island Superior Court in Washington County entered a restraining order enjoining Turtleboy from, inter alia, contacting, cyberbullying, or otherwise interfering with Narcisi. The order demanded that Turtleboy remove any posts about Narcisi.
Kearney states that defective service was made concerning a late May hearing. On appearing to oppose continuance of the restraining order, the judge advised he could not speak for his company.
Further hearing was scheduled for June 19th. Counsel for Kearney removed the case to federal court and has moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Kearney/Turtleboy’s success in garnering the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union promises a vigorous First Amendment challenge should the issues of unconstitutional prior restraints and Section 230 immunities be reached.
That the speech and responsibility issues may not be reached may only make the case more interesting, for Kearney/Turtleboy essentially challenges the “presence” of internet postings for jurisdictional purposes.
Kearney/Turtlboy asserts that there exist no contacts with plaintiff or plaintiff’s business or the State of Rhode Island that would support personal jurisdiction.
The core issue is whether internet posting, which have no physical presence in the traditional three dimensional sense, are sufficient to constitute contacts for purpose of asserting personal jurisdiction.
Some courts have said no.
Plaintiff has yet to respond to the motion to dismiss.
Time will tell.