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Social Media and The Law: So You Want to Sue Your Social Network?

Karen Beth Young of Maryland who is suing Facebook

The web, for the moment anyway, is as permanent as the pyramids. Once it’s up there, it’s up there. A chance remark, an unfortunate photo, an over-zealous pursuit of an issue; it all adds up to a call to your lawyer. Here are a few examples of individuals suing their social network.

Consider the case of Karen Beth Young of Maryland who is suing Facebook for banning her. Karen has bi-polar disorder and is deeply concerned about cancer. She feels that others should share her concerns.

Accordingly, she has been friending strangers and acting as a conduit for cancer awareness groups. Facebook says that her conduit activity is spam. Karen believes that the fact she has bi-polar disorder means that Facebook are in breach of the Americans with Disabilities act.

When Facebook declined to answer any further emails on the subject, Karen climbed in her 10-year-old station wagon and drove from Maryland to Facebook’s HQ. Her account was reinstated on the spot. When she got back to Maryland she discovered that once again she was banned. The case is still open and pending trial.

Dearborn, Michigan attorney Majed Moughni placed fourth in the Republican primary against the longest-serving member of Congress, US Representative John Dingell. He blames Facebook.

“I had no chance with Facebook. They disorganized us in the middle of our campaign and we lost. Facebook took us off the market. They took us off the face of the earth.”

Facebook claims that Moughni was using questionable tactics to garner his 1600 fans and his page was automatically shut down. Majed has filed suit.

Twitter has had it’s own run ins with the law. Brazil is suing the social network for allowing users to post details about “sobriety checkpoints” on its service.

@RadarBlitzGO in Goiania, the state capital of Goias, tweeted out information from drivers about traffic jams, blockages, checkpoints and police patrols.

Then when news of the action spread and followers became aware of the police check points the site posted a brief tweet to its 12,000 or so followers: “It’s the end.”

“We haven’t received any guidance from Twitter. But we’re shutting down of our own accord,” it wrote. “In light of the civil action proposed … we are suspending updating until the court rules.”

The site has since been idle.

In the UK last year a footballer who, at the time, may or may not have been called Ryan Giggs, sued Twitter for breaking the terms of Super Injunction, which stated that no one could mention the fact that he’d been playing away with a lady called Imogen. Super injunctions are expensive but Giggs, who earns around $20m a year can afford it. The fact that we’re mentioning his name here is a clear indication that the case was dead in the water.

Most cases like those above ultimately fail in court. To really be in with a chance against the social media behemoths your case should at least embrace one of the following.

  • You shared a room, corridor or lunch table with Mark Zuckerberg and discussed some of your ideas, which he then ripped off and used to start Facebook. OR
  • You hold patents on technology without which Facebook or Twitter could not function. You’ve been in business for a few years and might be called Yahoo.

Think twice before suing your social network for something as asinine as the above cases. We’re not talking about something as serious as assault or medical malpractice so give your lawyer a break. You’ll most likely only make it as far as the blogs in terms of fame and you’ll probably only end up poorer in the process.

– Follow Adria Saracino on Twitter @adriasaracino

About Adria Saracino

Adria Saracino
Adria Saracino is an online marketer, blogger, and graphic designer who is passionate about Internet culture. From specific SEO projects to overall business strategy, she loves creating and sustaining thriving online businesses. Her experience is varied and her interests never-ending. Let her help you reach your business goals and realize your online potential. Follow on Twitter @adriasaracino