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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    3

    Default Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Their Users

    I'm a computer programmer, and last night my friends and I were arguing about a hypothetical situation where social networking sites could be liable for the actions of its users.

    I will reiterate that this is a *hypothetical* question; this question does not involve me personally in any way, shape or form.

    Let's say you have two Facebook users. One user, call him/her Person A, has knowledge about Person B that is private and sensitive in nature. Person A posts that information up on Facebook for all the world to see. Let's say this information includes a terribly embarassing fact about the person's past, as well as their social security number and credit card. Let's say that Person A, in addition to posting flagrantly-personal information, also makes some libelous statements about Person B: "Person B was arrested for manslaughter back in 1945." (Since Person B was born in, say, 1970, there is no way this is even possible).

    What I'm interested is this: is Facebook liable here for contributing to this publication of Person B's private info, and/or for the making of these libelous statements?

    Even though it was Person A who wrote those libelous/defaming comments, and published that private information, it is Facebook who delivers the medium by which those comments reach the outside world. No one at Facebook made the offending comments - but could Facebook be on the hook here? And of course, I recognize that different states and different courts have different rules and interpretations...I'm looking for hypothetical, ballpark, generic consensus.

    I've brushed up on NYS (I'm a Yankee) and federal law regarding both publishing private information as well as libel, but in the context of the internet, it is hard to distinguish the role and liability that Facebook plays as the "middle man" here.

    If I had to make a total laymen, uneducated guess, I would say that no court in its right mind would hold Facebook liable for what its users post, so long as it does everything on its part to remain within the confines of state/federal law (for instance, since Facebook collects personal information it must conspicuously post a compliant privacy policy on all of its web pages, etc.).

    If someone were to grafitti "John Doe of 123 ABC Lane, Bronx, NY was convicted on manslaughter in 1945" on the side of some building, and that statement was false & damaging to John Doe, he wouldn't be able to sue the building owner for being partially-liable. That would be ridiculous! Why not sue the spray paint manufacturer as well! I have to assume the same goes for Facebook and other social networking sites in these types of situations.

    Then again, I freelance at $65/hr, a little ways below the paygrade of an esquire.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Toledo, OH
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    16,307

    Default Re: Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Its Users

    We really don't like hypotheticals here, but I've got a spare minute, so why not.

    Venues like Facebook are considered service providers, and are generally immune from liability for content posted by their users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Its Users

    LawResearcherMissy - thank you for that interesting post!

    So I assume then, that under this so-called "3 prong test", that:

    (1) Facebook would qualify as the "provider" of an "interactive computer service"; and
    (2) Person B, suing Facebook, would be "treating" Facebook as the originator of the "publisher/speaker" of harmful information; and
    (3) The information published on Facebook was actually provided by Person A

    Ergo, this act - and probably the user license agreement you sign when you join Facebook in the first place - cover all of Facebook's bases for these kinds of suits. Yes?

    (And thanks again!)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,521

    Default Re: Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Its Users

    Do you want to know why most of us don't do hypotheticals?

    Because we VOLUNTEER here and we want to spend what time we have helping people with REAL problems - not made up ones.

    You've gotten as much of an answer as you're likely to get - now go do your own research and stop expecting other people to do it for you.

    Don't bother coming over to LLT - you'll get shut down there faster than you did on FA.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Its Users

    cbg - y'all been postin in a troll thread. And in the time it took you to write this you gave up time to help out someone with real problems. Wakka wakka

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    24,521

    Default Re: Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Its Users

    Then shame on you for trolling. I decide where I want to spend my time, and if I want to spend a few minutes of it providing an explanation that future readers will see so that maybe they won't post their made up story, that's my business.

    Now go play in the traffic or something.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Lake Chapala
    Posts
    3,043

    Default Re: Are Social Networking Sites Liable for the Actions of Its Users

    Quote Quoting mondale
    View Post
    cbg - y'all been postin in a troll thread. And in the time it took you to write this you gave up time to help out someone with real problems. Wakka wakka
    Wow what a loser! I almost feel sorry for you - you have some free time and this is all you can come up with to do? What a sad dry empty little life you have...

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