Social Media Posts Insufficient to Establish Personal Jurisdiction

Instagram and Twitter are both social media websites that allow users to share posts and/or photos, in real time, with the public or select followers. As with other social media websites, a user can make his or her account private such that only authorized persons can follow the user, or the account can remain public and anyone with an account may subscribe to the user’s posts/photos.

In April 2014, plaintiff posted a photograph of himself on his public Instagram account. Shaquille O’Neal, a former professional basketball player, obtained plaintiff’s photograph and re-posted a picture on O’Neal’s Instagram and Twitter accounts showing side-by-side pictures of himself and the plaintiff. The plaintiff, who suffered from a skin disorder, filed suit against O’Neal and other defendants in Michigan federal court, alleging invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and negligence. O’Neal sought to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the Michigan court did not have personal jurisdiction. The basketball player argued, and the court ultimately agreed, that O’Neal did not purposefully avail himself of the privilege of doing business in Michigan since the social media posts were accessible to any of defendant’s millions of followers located worldwide; the posts involved minimal interaction; and the posts were not for a business purpose. Therefore, the case against O’Neal was dismissed.

Binion v. O’Neal