The problems of social media have been in the news and popular culture for years now. However, all this talk has not appeared to hurt the social media companies one bit
Indeed, when social media users attempt to sue based on personal injury claims, these companies attempt to block these lawsuits based on Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, the so-called liability shield.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act
Section 230 gives social media companies a liability shield from the postings of their users. This means that they cannot be sued for what their users post. Originally, this law was passed to help the internet flourish. After all, if websites could be held broadly liable for what their users did, the internet would likely not exist, and if it did, it would be vastly different that what we have today.
Nonetheless, some enterprising litigants are using personal injury lawsuits based on product liability claims to get past Section 230. Under this legal theory, Section 230 would not apply because the litigants are suing the social media companies as makers or manufacturers of a defective product: the websites and applications themselves. Plaintiffs claim these defects harmed them. Courts have not universally accepted this line of reasoning, but some are allowing litigation to proceed.
Two recent examples
Recently, the federal judiciary has weighed in on cases against Omegle.com LLC and Snap Inc. In both cases, the plaintiffs argued that the companies’ algorithms and software facilitated the sexual abuse of minors. In the Snap case, the federal court threw out the lawsuit based on Section 230, but the Omegle judge found the opposite.
Section 230’s liability shield no longer a guarantee
For our Woodstock, Connecticut, readers, the key here is that, if you have been injured because of the negligence of a social media company, it’s good to know that not all courts believe Section 20 to be an absolute shield. You may have legal options through a product liability lawsuit.