The Suit Against Social Media’s Sitting Ducks

It had to happen. There are giant corporations who are playing the weak and the chumps in order to line their pockets. Sound familiar? Some two-hundred school boards so far have joined together for litigation against the parent companies of Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube, with the lawsuits consolidated into one at the U.S. District Court in Oakland, California. But you don’t really think that these billion-dollar money machines are going to just let themselves be dragged into court, now do you?

There will be a ruling later this year about the tech giants being protected from lawsuits by Section 230, which holds the giant money-grubbing social media corporations harmless, because the content was from a third-party, thus releasing the internet giants of any liability. As Bill Clinton stated so eloquently, “that dog won’t hunt.” 

Tech Companies and Section 230

The schools are claiming the social media websites are causing “cyberbullying and other disciplinary problems, adding new training and school policies around social-media use, and counseling youths whose addiction to online apps is leading to depression or suicidal thoughts.” (Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2023) Well now, that’s the schools’ problem now isn’t it? Why should the social media firms pay for the problems they cause, when everyone knows the flaws are in the youth, not the programming. Facebook only made $116 billion in 2022. TikTok generated a mere $9.4 billion in 2022. Snapchat only made $1.3 billion, and YouTube only earned $29.2 billion. Come on now, with revenues that low, they can barely keep paying for the country club memberships for the boards of directors.

That Section 230 law passed by Congress in 1996, says that internet companies generally aren’t liable for third-party content. Gosh, don’t you just love a coincidence like that? Way back in 1996 the internet social media lobbyists probably took some members of the U.S. Congress to lunch at McDonalds and persuaded them that they should be legally protected from any liability, and the freedom-loving members of our Congress agreed. The harms that the plaintiffs state that the social media caused are protected by Section 230. Case closed, or not; especially if it goes before the 9th Circuit Court in California, whose reputation for liberalism would make AOC look like a six-year-old in an advanced calculus class. (AOC is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in case you didn’t know.)

That Section 230 law passed by Congress in 1996, says that internet companies generally aren’t liable for third-party content. Gosh, don’t you just love a coincidence like that?

“Protecting kids across our platforms has always been core to our work,” said a Google spokesman. I’m sure he wouldn’t have crossed his fingers behind his back when he said that. Public Relations people are the kind of folks that would say that the Titanic passengers will not be charged extra for that cold bath. In a joint legal brief several of the tech firms dismissed their liabilities by saying: “The alleged defects are inescapably linked to the publication of third-party content.” Well, I must say, that is an iron-clad defense, especially when they are posting such incredible revenues; how could they claim responsibility when they are only scraping by with dozens of billions of dollars in revenue?

TikTok aims “to protect teens by offering age-appropriate experiences with robust safety policies and features, including screen-time limits, parental controls and restrictions on messaging and live streaming.” I remember that time I tried to get on TikTok and that muscle-bound bouncer at the door made me show him my ID. He checked it out carefully. Or not. The TikTok Hyundai and Kia challenge, from 2022, is, I am sure by now, ancient history, and, oh yeah, I forgot that some of the auto insurance (State Farm and Progressive if you don’t believe it) companies are no longer offering insurance on Kias and Hyndais, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, huh? Gosh, it’s as if those companies live in 2022 or something! This is an outrage!

Section 230 and Tik Tok

But before we start counting the winners and losers of this potential conflict, let’s hear from the side of the plaintiffs: “I can’t change the law and we can’t send anybody to jail, but what we can do is sue them in massive litigation and try to make them pay a whole lot of money” said Missouri lawyer Jonathan Keiffer in a presentation to Brevard County schools in Florida. I’m betting his presentation didn’t include details of his astronomical fees for just such litigation. American lawyers love big game, and if you have billions, you’re in their crosshairs.

Let’s just pass the blame of the negative impacts of social media on distracted parents and nasty third-party providers, and watch a generation lose its way, with the only direction coming from hare-brained “influencers” whom I shall not name because that would only offer them more publicity and notoriety; and the fact that I find their inane commentary incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.

Some of us saw it coming.

Some of us saw teenagers stealing cars and accepting all kinds of dangerous “challenges” of which the social media sites offered, but the social media corporations were too busy counting their money to notice.

Now the lawyers want to count some of those billions for themselves; who would have thought that? When the young people wouldn’t get off their mobile phones, when they believed in all kinds of “theories” that defied logic, (and anyone with an education could see through the twisted reasoning) when uneducated “influencers” (who also make lots of money) became a “career” that offered no information or advice of value, became the “norm” some of us saw something wrong. But the youth were too spoiled and pampered to take away those electronic toys that did nothing for them, so they carried on down a dangerous dead end, with some of them ending up, indeed, dead.  We all know who loses in this fight, or at least those of us with any brains left.

Jeffrey Neil Jackson

Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary

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