Appeals Court Says Vimeo Can’t Be Forced to Post Conversion-Therapy Videos

Conversion-therapy survivors scored a huge victory this week, when a federal appellate court dismissed an attempt to force video-sharing site Vimeo to host videos promoting conversion therapy. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court decision. That ruling said Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects Vimeo’s right to restrict content in good faith. Specifically, Vimeo can refuse to host conversion-therapy videos.

Vimeo Guidelines Refuse Harmful Videos

In 2018, Vimeo warned Pastor James Domen and his Church United that the site guidelines do not permit videos promoting Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). Vimeo then told the church to remove a handful of SOCE videos or risk account deletion. But Domen, who claims to be a “former homosexual,” ignored the warnings. Vimeo then deleted his account. In addition to prohibiting SOCE content, Vimeo responded that it “does not allow videos that harass, incite hatred, or include discriminatory or defamatory speech.”

Domen sued in 2019, accusing Vimeo of censorship and discrimination. But U.S. District Judge Stewart D. Aaron dismissed the lawsuit as baseless in 2020, and the Court of Appeals agreed.

Conversion-Therapy Videos Qualify as Harmful Content

“Vimeo is statutorily entitled to consider SOCE content objectionable and may restrict access to that content as it sees fit,” writes Circuit Judge Rosemary S. Pooler. Hollywood Reporter published the full ruling. “Moreover, the statute does not require providers to use any particular form of restriction. Although Appellants take issue with Vimeo’s deletion of Church United’s entire account as opposed to deleting only those videos promoting SOCE, nothing within the statute or related case law suggests that this took Vimeo’s actions outside of the scope of subsection (c)(2) immunity. Indeed, Vimeo warned Church United that removal of the entire account was exactly what might happen if they ignored the warning.”

In short, guidelines on the carriage of conversion-therapy content are justified. No one can force an online business to air harmful videos.

Vimeo Guidelines Save Lives

“Vimeo is saving lives by standing up for guidelines that oppose harm,” said Mathew Shurka, chief strategist of Born Perfect and a conversion therapy survivor. “All reputable video sharing sites and social media prohibit content that promotes abuse, self-harm and suicide. Conversion therapy is rooted in fraudulent and disproven pseudoscience. It causes deliberate harm, especially to LGBTQ+ youth and their parents.”

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said:

“Conversion-therapy causes enormous harm to LGBTQ youth and their families. Authors who promote this deadly practice have no legal right to compel private companies to post their content or give them a platform.”

In a similar case, Meghan Murphy used Twitter to abuse a transgender woman by insisting upon using male pronouns. Twitter suspended Murphy’s account. Murphy sued, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the Human Rights Campaign, the Transgender Law Center, and Jenner & Block LLP filed an amicus brief supporting Twitter’s anti-harassment policies. The trial court dismissed the case. Then the California Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal.

Born Perfect is grateful to Vimeo for refusing harmful conversion therapy videos, standing up to legal harassment, and amplifying videos that affirm family health.

Born Perfect is a survivor-led program created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in 2014 to end conversion therapy by passing laws across the country that protect LGBTQ children and young people, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.

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