Recently, a wave of lawsuits has swept over social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Many were aimed at the rampant dissemination of fake news in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, while others spawned from the growing problem of sexual harassment (sometimes controversially but conveniently squashed by nondisclosure agreements) in big tech companies. Luckily for the law firms that use social media to attract new clients, the lawsuits are mostly falling flat.
But is that a good thing in the long run? Are social media platforms gaining new users — or at least keeping old users interested? So far, it seems to be the case: Facebook reported a whopping 2.45 billion “active” monthly users, or those who logged in at least once during a thirty-day time period.
Trends, of course, describe changes over time by their very definition. Just because Facebook is keeping their users for now doesn’t mean they’ll hold on to them for much longer. And that’s an important thing to remember, since some of those lawsuits resulted from a spate of violence committed by terrorists.
Most of the lawsuits are somewhat absurd. AboveTheLaw described “one of the dumbest. The brain geniuses at Excolo Law convinced a client this would be a winning strategy: claim the shooting of some cops by a shooter in Dallas was Twitter’s fault because possibly the shooter though terrorist group Hamas was pretty cool.”
The lawsuit read: “Micah Johnson was radicalized by HAMAS’ use of social media. This was the stated goal of HAMAS. Johnson then carried out the deadly attacks in Dallas. Conducting terrorist acts in the United States via radicalized individuals is a stated goal of HAMAS.”
Naturally, the lawsuit — and 12 just like it — provided absolutely no material evidence to support the erroneous claim that the shooter was somehow linked to Hamas OR that Twitter somehow allowed Hamas feeds to influence users. Does Hamas have Twitter feeds?
Eric Goldman said that the court “expressly does not reach the Section 230 defense.”
The dismissal of that lawsuit read: “This case is the latest in a string of lawsuits that Plaintiffs’ lawyers have brought in an attempt to hold social media platforms responsible for tragic shootings and attacks across this country — by alleging that the platforms enabled international terrorist organizations to radicalize the attacks’ perpetrators.”
It concluded: “The Court dismisses this lawsuit with prejudice. Although the complaint here alleges additional facts not found in Pennie, the complaint nonetheless suffers from many of the same deficiencies discussed in Pennie. Plaintiffs here have not and after multiple attempts, clearly cannot connect Hamas to the Dallas shooting.”
The court essentially casually dismissed almost every aspect of that particular lawsuit. As mentioned, many others just like it have been dismissed as well. Now, we must wait and see how users react to these cases — and their expected outcomes.