(PatriotWise.com) — US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez denied on November 14 most parts of a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by some social media companies, even as these companies argued that they have immunity under federal law. As a result, tech firms in the United States will now have to face a major lawsuit over their allegedly “defective” platforms, which plaintiffs claim have caused addiction in millions of kids around the world. The companies that filed the motion to dismiss were Snapchat, TikTok, Google, and Meta.
Gonzalez, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, ruled that the 1996 Communication Decency Act’s Section 230 doesn’t shield these tech firms from product liability claims. The lawsuit against the platforms, which was filed by the Social Media Victims Law Center, claimed that these companies deliberately target children by taking advantage of their “limited impulse control.” The complaint added that the harms range from geolocation to inappropriate sexual content, excessive screen time, and more.
The defendant firms argued that Section 230 protects them from lawsuits as they are not legally considered third-party content “publishers. However, the judge rejected their “all-or-nothing” position and said that the law is more complex than they want to suggest as it involves numerous issues related to companies failing to make their products safe or even warn about their issues.
Some of the examples Gonzalez cited were the lack of effective parent controls, organizing notifications in a manner that encourages addiction, difficulties in reporting unsafe accounts, and limited options to restrict usage. In her 52-page decision, the judge stated that the tech firms failed to properly address the accusations against them. As an example, Gonzalez criticized Snapchat’s claim that the company is just a “camera application” instead of a social media platform for young people.
Legal experts pointed out that her decision means that the lawsuit against the firms will move forward to the discovery stage in federal court in Northern California. If the court ends up certifying it as a class action, the plaintiffs could pursue not only compensation but also tangible changes in the platforms.
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