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Shall we sue Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg and demand compensation?

Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg, Section 230

Opinion

Shall we sue Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg and demand compensation?

After 19 years of publication, Facebook has exhibited extreme notoriety on BLiTZ, a leading anti-militancy newspaper and to its hundreds and thousands of readers by branding this newspaper’s URL weeklyblitz.net as “spam” and banned posting or even sharing any contents on the social media platform. Although Mark Zuckerberg and those inside Facebook may come up with lame excuses stating they do not have any hands behind such outrageous actions and would simply put the blame of algorithm, we are confidently stating, Facebook authorities have done this on-purpose with the nefarious agenda of suffocating this newspaper. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are not be held responsible for gauging free press. And of course, BLiTZ retains the right to file compensation case against Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in Bangladeshi and international court. Branding a 19-year-old newspaper as “spam” is a serious crime and of course, Facebook should sufficiently compensate BLiTZ. How much should be the amount of compensation? Dear readers please suggest on the comment section of this article.

According to The Los Angeles Times, November 2021 op-ed, Facebook has had a rough month, and deservedly so. The company has earned a special place of distrust in the hearts of many: A CNN poll published Wednesday found that 3 out of 4 US adults say Facebook is making American society worse.

In an October Senate hearing, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen made explosive allegations that the company’s own research documented the harms its site inflicts upon users. In other words, Facebook itself allegedly knew that its business harmed others in concrete and preventable ways, like promoting photo sharing that damages the mental health of young people, especially girls. How has Facebook gotten away with it?

Part of the answer lies with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the controversial federal law that essentially gives these social media platforms broad protection against liability for content posted by others. The law shields Facebook from the responsibility and liability of a traditional publisher.

Though a newspaper might be sued for libel over a defamatory article, Section 230 protects online platforms from liability for the content they distribute as long as they did not create it. In effect, Facebook has received a federal subsidy in the form of Section 230, which largely protects it from an important form of societal regulation: lawsuits.

Lawsuits bring issues into a public forum for scrutiny and discussion. In the absence of adequate regulation, the public depends upon private citizens to assert their rights and redress wrongs in court. When companies deploy new technology and business models, legislators and regulators are often slow to react. As a result, the legality of these new practices is often litigated — meaning they get debated by attorneys, reported by the news media and discussed by the public.

Social media companies have escaped these lawsuits mostly unscathed. For example, Facebook was sued by a victim of sex trafficking who had connected with her abuser through the site. In June the Texas Supreme Court dismissed most of her claims based on Section 230 immunity. In a different case, family members of victims killed by terrorist attacks sued Twitter, Facebook and Google, alleging that these companies provided material support to terrorist organizations. The 9th Circuit ruled (also in June) that most of the claims were barred by Section 230.

Let me remind my readers, back in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg to the US Congress that Facebook is responsible for its contents.

But Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook cannot skip legal consequence and defamation suits by using Section 230 of the law, as in this particular case they have committed a serious crime by defaming a 19-year-old newspaper’s URL by false branding it as “spam”.

At the same time, we also agree with the point where Nancy Kim wrote in The Los Angeles Times stating: “Certainly Section 230 needs to be modified. It is currently written so that courts interpret it too broadly to mean blanket immunity even when the claims against a company are not based on publisher or speaker liability. The law should be updated to clarify that companies are responsible for their business practices and products, a line that could be drawn without upending the important protections for free speech and content moderation that 230 provides”.

Facebook has also been committing another serious crime on millions of people throughout the world. Imagine this unfortunate scenario: You log onto your Facebook account and you notice a friend request from someone you don’t recognize. You click their account and are horrified to discover that this account user has published a series of defamatory posts about you.  You immediately reach out to Facebook and request that they intervene to assist in removing the defamatory posts. Facebook declines to remove the account or the posts. In this case, the victim cannot sue Facebook, as it enjoys protection under Section 230. No one can file defamation against Facebook for the actions of a third-party user.

Here again, what Facebook has done with a 19-year-old newspaper by branding its URL as “spam” is a crime committed by the social media platform itself, for which Mark Zuckerberg and all other members of the board of this social media platform can be sued. There is no law to save them from this legal action.

While we shall begin consulting our lawyers about the possible defamation and compensation suit against Mark Zuckerberg and other members of the board of Facebook, we are drawing attention of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Sans Frontiers, Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Journalists, PEN-America, International Organization of Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, Canadian Association of Journalists, American Society of News Editors, Association of European Journalists, and international media outlets to this matter.

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Sohail Choudhury is the Executive Editor of Blitz

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