Social Litigation Survives

Hundreds of plaintiffs received a massive win against a number of social media platforms last week. Not familiar with the case? Let us explain.

The plaintiffs in this case (a consolidation of hundreds of lawsuits) have alleged that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Youtube employed similar “defective and dangerous product features that are engineered to induce more use by young people— creating an unreasonable risk of compulsive use and addiction.”  In short, the platforms are allegedly “maximiz[ing] its own benefit and advertising revenue at the expense of the health of minor users of the that social media company’s applications or websites.”

The master complaint, filed in California state court, included 13 claims. In response, the platforms filed motions to demurrer (moved for dismissal) of the entirety of the complaint. Importantly, the basis for this dismissal included assertions of the First Amendment and Section 203.

Late last week, the court ruled and found that those defenses did not bar the negligence claims against the platforms. Effectively, the court found that Section 230 doesn’t protect these companies against claims where it is alleged that that their own actions (e.g., negligently designed features of the apps) are at issue.  As it relates to the First Amendment defense, the court found that allegations of addiction caused by a platform (not the particular content visible on the platforms) are not barred.

This case likely will fuel even more litigation and future case law.

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