Should YouTube And Facebook Be Responsible For Content Posted By Users?
Provisions of federal law that have protected tech companies from certain types of liability have now bled over and are causing obvious harm to young people. While social media alone cannot be said to be entirely responsible for the set of circumstances that have given rise to these lawsuits, these companies are not blameless either.
The engineers at Facebook were more interested in driving engagement with content than they were at becoming conscious of the type of harm their platform was causing. Today, numerous suicide lawsuits have been laid at the feet of social media giants that are now scrambling to defend them.
While the law favors the social media companies, public outcry is on the side of the plaintiffs. This could mean that when the Supreme Court steps in to render a decision, it could change the rules of the internet. Not everyone is convinced that this would result in a cavalcade of lawsuits against social media companies. In fact, the rule created a sieve that ensured that only the worst lawsuits would be pursued. While these lawsuits may not be actionable under the current rules, they do create pressure on legislatures to allow specific types of lawsuits to move forward. This could result in certain types of lawsuits becoming actionable.
The Communications Decency Act protects social media companies from third-party content. While it remains possible to sue the company that posted the content, you cannot sue Facebook, even if they blast the content all over the internet. This is a problem because Facebook has no duty of care when it comes to vetting content. That means that there is no pressure on Facebook to do anything about harmful content.
While this can include content that addicts children, other arguments allege that Facebook facilitated blood libel in Myanmar genocide. While the blood libel would still exist regardless of Facebook, Facebook’s created the material circumstances ripe for violence against a minority population. They should be accountable for blasting the content. Someone else created it, but they helped spread it.
Blood libel and blood feuds
American families can barely have a meal together without politics entering the fray and making everyone miserable. This is largely because certain forms of content appeal to base fears and make people feel as though the whole world is at stake if everyone doesn’t agree with them. These fears are largely unfounded or were present before without notice until a savvy troll honed them and turned them into a weapon.
We need social media companies to be more aware of how harmful content can cause real-world calamity. Unfortunately, without means of accountability, it isn’t going to happen.
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