EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge:
Jane and Julie Doe ("the Does") appeal the district court's dismissal of their claims for negligence and gross negligence, and its finding that the claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act ("CDA"), 47 U.S.C § 230, and Texas common law. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the district court.
I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
MySpace.com is a Web-based social network. Online social networking is the practice of using a Web site or other interactive computer service to expand one's business or social network. Social networking on MySpace.com begins with a member's creation of an online profile that serves as a medium for personal expression, and can contain such items as photographs, videos, and other information about the member that he or she chooses to share with other MySpace.com users. Members have complete discretion regarding the amount and type of information that is included in a personal profile. Members over the age of sixteen can choose the degree of privacy they desire regarding their profile; that is, they determine who among the MySpace.com membership is allowed to view their profile. Once a profile has been created, the member can use it to extend "invitations" to existing friends who are also MySpace.com users and to communicate with those friends online by linking to their profiles, or using e-mail, instant messaging, and blogs,
In the summer of 2005, at age thirteen, Julie Doe ("Julie") lied about her age, represented that she was eighteen years old, and created a profile on MySpace.com. This action allowed her to circumvent all safety features of the Web site and resulted in her profile being made public; nineteen-year-old Pete Solis ("Solis") was able to initiate contact with Julie in April 2006 when she was fourteen. The two communicated offline on several occasions after Julie provided her telephone number. They met in person in May 2006, and, at this meeting, Solis sexually assaulted Julie.
Julie's mother, Jane Doe, first sued MySpace, Inc., its parent company, News Corporation (collectively "MySpace"), and Solis in a Texas state court on her own behalf and on behalf of her daughter, alleging that MySpace failed to implement basic safety measures to prevent sexual predators from communicating with minors on its Web site. The Does' original petition asserted claims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, and gross negligence against MySpace, and claims for sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Solis. MySpace answered the petition and filed special exceptions, asserting among other things, that the CDA and Texas common law barred the Does' claims. The Does amended their petition, to which MySpace again specially excepted; thereafter, before any ruling on the special exceptions, the Does filed a motion for nonsuit which the court granted, dismissing the case without prejudice. The Does then refiled in New York state court, asserting the same claims against MySpace, but declining to name Solis as a defendant. MySpace immediately removed that case
The district court in Texas then held oral argument on February 1, 2007, and decided MySpace's motion to dismiss in a written opinion. The district court construed MySpace's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss as a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings and considered the Does' most recent complaint, filed on September 25, 2006 in the Bronx County court. In their complaint, the Does alleged:
The district court in Texas dismissed with prejudice the Does' claims for negligence and gross negligence, finding that the claims were barred by the CDA and Texas common law. The Does voluntarily withdrew their claims for fraud and negligent misrepresentation; therefore, the district court dismissed those claims without prejudice. The Does now appeal the district court's dismissal of their claims for negligence and gross negligence, arguing that § 230(c)(1) of the CDA is inapplicable here because their claims do not implicate MySpace as a "publisher" protected by the Act and because MySpace not only published but was also partially responsible for creating the content of the information that was exchanged between Julie and Solis. Doe next argues that § 230(c)(2) does not immunize MySpace's failure to take reasonable steps to ensure minors' safety.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court reviews a district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) de novo. See Brittan Commc'ns Int'l Corp. v. Sw. Bell Tel. Co., 313 F.3d 899, 904 (5th Cir.2002); Hughes v. The Tobacco Inst., Inc., 278 F.3d 417, 420 (5th Cir.2001). A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 529 (5th Cir.2004) (citing Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 313 n. 8 (5th Cir.2002)). "[T]he central issue is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief." Hughes, 278 F.3d at 420 (internal quotations omitted). Although we must accept the factual allegations in the pleadings as true, id., a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).
In October 1998, Congress recognized the rapid development of the Internet and the benefits generated by Web-based service providers to the public. See 47 U.S.C. § 230(a) (acknowledging that "interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity" and have "flourished... with a minimum of government regulation"). In light of its findings, Congress enacted the CDA for several policy reasons, including "to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children's access to objectionable or inappropriate online material." Id. § 230(b)(4). To achieve that policy goal, Congress provided broad immunity under the CDA to Web-based service providers for all claims stemming from their publication of information created by third parties, referred to as the "Good Samaritan" provision. Id. § 230(c)(1) ("No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."). Indeed, "[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section." Id. § 230(e)(3).
Courts have construed the immunity provisions in § 230 broadly in all cases arising from the publication of user-generated content. See, e.g., Green v. Am. Online (AOL), 318 F.3d 465, 471 (3d Cir. 2003); Carafano v. Metrosplash.com, Inc., 339 F.3d 1119, 1123-24 (9th Cir.2003); Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018, 1030-31 & n. 19 (9th Cir.2003); Ben Ezra, Weinstein, & Co. v. Am. Online Inc., 206 F.3d 980, 984-86 (10th Cir.2000); Zeran v. Am. Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 330-31 (4th Cir. 1997). For example, the Ninth Circuit held that a Web-based dating-service provider was not liable when an unidentified party posted a false online personal profile for a popular actress, causing her to receive sexually explicit phone calls, letters, and faxes at her home. Carafano, 339 F.3d at 1122. Acknowledging that the immunity
Similarly, the Fourth Circuit dismissed a plaintiff's claims on the pleadings, holding that the CDA protects Web-based service providers from liability even after the provider is notified of objectionable content on its site. See Zeran, 129 F.3d at 333. The plaintiff in Zeran sued an Internet service provider for failing to remove upon notice a false advertisement offering shirts featuring tasteless slogans relating to the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building and instructing interested buyers to call the plaintiff to place orders. Id. at 329. After analyzing the immunity provision of § 230, the Fourth Circuit wrote:
Id. at 333.
Parties complaining that they were harmed by a Web site's publication of user-generated content have recourse; they may sue the third-party user who generated the content, but not the interactive computer service that enabled them to publish the content online. See id. at 330-31 ("None of this means, of course, that the original culpable party who posts defamatory messages would escape accountability.... Congress made a policy choice, however, not to deter harmful online speech through the separate route of imposing tort liability on companies that serve as intermediaries for other parties' potentially injurious messages.").
The Does appear to agree with the consensus among courts regarding the liability provisions in § 230(c)(1). They argue, however, that their claims against MySpace do not attempt to treat it as a "publisher" of information; therefore, they argue that § 230 does not immunize MySpace from their claims and state tort law applies in full effect. The Does attempt to distinguish their case from Carafano, Zeran, and other contrary authority by claiming that this case is predicated solely on MySpace's failure to implement basic safety measures to protect minors. The district court rejected the Does' argument, stating:
Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 474 F.Supp.2d 843, 849 (W.D.Tex.2007).
The Does do not present any caselaw to support their argument. In fact, they rely upon the same line of cases listed above but point to § 230(c)(1)'s grant of immunity to publishers of third-party content as evidence that their claims are somehow different. Other courts, however, have examined pleadings similar to the Does' and have reached the same conclusion as the district court. For example, in Green, the plaintiff sued a Web-based service provider after he received a computer virus from a third party and endured derogatory comments directed at him by others in an online "chat room." 318 F.3d at 469. He made a failure-to-protect argument similar to the Does', claiming that "AOL waived its immunity under [§] 230 by the terms of its membership contract with him and because AOL's Community Guidelines outline standards for online speech and conduct and contain promises that AOL would protect [him] from other subscribers." Id. at 471. The Third Circuit, however, dismissed the claims as barred by § 230, after recharacterizing the plaintiff's claims:
Id. (quoting Zeran, 129 F.3d at 333).
Green demonstrates the fallacy of the Does' argument. Their claims are barred by the CDA, notwithstanding their assertion that they only seek to hold MySpace liable for its failure to implement measures that would have prevented Julie Doe from communicating with Solis. Their allegations are merely another way of claiming that MySpace was liable for publishing the communications and they speak to MySpace's role as a publisher of online third-party-generated content.
The Does further argue for the first time on appeal that MySpace is not immune under the CDA because it partially created the content at issue, alleging that it facilitates its members' creation of personal profiles and chooses the information they will share with the public through an online questionnaire. The Does also contend that MySpace's search features qualify it as an "information content provider", as defined in the CDA: "The term `information content provider' means any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service." 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(3).
Nothing in the record, however, supports such a claim; indeed, Julie admitted that she lied about her age to create the profile and exchanged personal information with Solis. In the February 1, 2007 hearing before the district court, the Does admitted that Julie created the content, disclosing personal information that ultimately led to the sexual assault, but stressed that their cause of action was rooted in the fact that MySpace should have implemented safety technologies to
Throughout the hearing, the Does stated they had one argument—that MySpace was negligent for not taking more precautions:
Although the Does' complaint alleged that MySpace allowed or encouraged members to post information after a member's profile had been created, counsel for the Does reiterated in the hearing time and again that they had no complaints or allegations regarding the content of the information posted by Julie or exchanged between Julie and Solis. It appears that the reference to MySpace's solicitation of information was solely used to set up the Does' argument that MySpace failed to
At no time before filing their appeal in this Court did the Does argue that the CDA should not apply to MySpace because it was partially responsible for creating information exchanged between Julie and Solis. Because the Does failed to present this argument to the district court, they are barred from making this argument on appeal. See Stokes v. Emerson Elec. Co., 217 F.3d 353, 358 n. 19 (5th Cir.2000) ("Arguments not raised in the district court cannot be asserted for the first time on appeal."); Brown v. Ames, 201 F.3d 654, 663 (5th Cir.2000) ("To avoid being waived, an argument must be raised to such a degree that the trial court may rule on it." (internal quotations omitted)). We therefore hold, without considering the Does' content-creation argument, that their negligence and gross negligence claims are barred by the CDA, which prohibits claims against Web-based interactive computer services based on their publication of third-party content. 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), (e)(3). Because we affirm the district court based upon the application of § 230(c)(1), there is no need to apply § 230(c)(2), or to assess the viability of the Does' claims under Texas common law in the absence of the CDA.
The judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.