Mark Zuckerberg seeks to avoid personal liability in social media addiction lawsuits

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midian182

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A hot potato: As long as there has been social media, there have been concerns about its addictive nature, especially when it comes to young people and children. It's led to several lawsuits, and Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg is trying to ensure that he isn't held personally liable.

There are two dozen lawsuits that accuse Meta and other social media platforms of purposely designing their products in a way that makes them addictive to children. There are also claims that the companies knowingly allow underage users to open and operate accounts.

In an attempt to ensure he is not held personally liable, Zuckerberg will be appearing at a hearing today in California federal court, writes Bloomberg.

The odds are certainly in Zuckerberg's favor. Corporate law traditionally shields executives from liability, particularly at massive companies like Meta where many people are involved in the decision-making process.

If Zuckerberg wins his case, he would be dismissed as a personal defendant in the litigation, though the allegations against Meta would not be impacted.

It's claimed that Zuckerberg was repeatedly warned that Facebook and Instagram were not safe for children, but he ignored the findings and publicly stated the platforms were safe for kids.

"Zuckerberg, the world's fourth-richest person as of Thursday, has argued that he can't be held personally responsible for actions at Meta just because he's the CEO," writes Bloomberg. "As for the statements made by Zuckerberg himself, his lawyers claim that they were generalized or covered by the US Constitution's First Amendment protection of free speech and that Zuckerberg didn't have a duty to disclose the safety findings that were allegedly reported to him."

The two dozen cases that name Zuckerberg come from more than 1,000 suits in state and families filed by families and public school districts against Meta, Google, TikTok, and Snap. US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, who is overseeing the cases, has dismissed some while allowing others to proceed.

One of the biggest controversies Meta/Facebook has ever had to deal with was in 2021 when leaked documents revealed it had spent the last few years examining the effects Instagram had on younger users' mental health, and that it knew just how harmful the social network was to kids, especially teenage girls.

In January last year, Seattle schools sued social media companies for causing a "mental health crisis" among children. Over 40 states did the same thing last October.

In 2022, Washington DC's attorney general Karl A. Racine sued Zuckerberg over the Cambridge Analytica incident, holding the CEO personally liable for his role in the company's largest-ever privacy debacle.

In November, a new study that used data from over 2 million people disputed claims that the internet, smartphones, and apps are detrimental to users' mental health. The researchers said they looked for a smoking gun linking tech with mental well-being but didn't find it.

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In an ideal world the solution should be simple: Mr Zuck if you're not personally liable for the addictive content patterns you're knowingly and willingly targeting minors with, then you should also be proportionally stripped of all of the financial benefits your entire corporation accrues from this and other equally questionable-to-outright-illegal tactics.

Like people want to think it's more complicated than this, but it really isn't: An absurdly wealthy billionaire would never get to be that rich if we would apply and equally absurdly high moral compass to the actions of the company they somehow are never personally liable from but directly control and have endless details and still get to profit from.

In fact at this point, I would settle the case for just Zuck being forced to actually pay all of the taxes his corporation routinely dodges with many legal and grey area tricks: Just get him to get rid of 30% of all of his personal and all of Meta's net worth as retroactive taxes and we'll call it even: We'll be able to fund counter-propaganda, social programs to combat online addiction, we might even be able to directly change the lives of millions giving them free education, housing and food security because that really is how much money Zuck makes and how little megacorporations contribute back to the society they exploit.
 
Heaven forbid parents be parents and limit their kid's access to any of these sites. You can't control what they do everywhere, but you certainly can keep them off of the sites at home and on any mobile devices you have control of. The parents should have talks with their kids and explain why those sites aren't something they should be visiting as kids and the various dangers associated with them.

I agree that the sites engage in predatory practices to keep people hooked and spend greater amounts of time on the sites/apps, but people can be aware and take proactive steps to not be drawn in. Parents can take proactive steps to keep their kids from being sucked in.

Everyone always wants to blame someone else instead of taking personal responsibility.
 
If it can be shown that work on their (Meta) side was done by design to make things addictive to hook consumers, he should be held responsible because he's in charge of something they are actively doing.

Last place I worked the company actually hired a psychologist type of person to help design the layout of their software so it was easier to use based on human tendencies, where people look, what gets their attention and so on.
 
If it can be shown that work on their (Meta) side was done by design to make things addictive to hook consumers, he should be held responsible
Addictive is a loaded word. How about we substitute "compelling to use" instead? I'm curious how gamers would respond to a court ruling that actually required game-makers to produce products that were *less* fun to play?

Last place I worked the company actually hired a psychologist type of person to help design the layout of their software so it was easier to use based on human tendencies, where people look, what gets their attention and so on.
So now ergonomics is evil?
 
So hear me out. If alcohol companies and casinos can escape liability for their addictive products then social media shoulf also get a pass. Social media isn't taxable with a "sin tax" so fines are the only way governments are going to get any revenue from them
 
I think that the worst aspect about social media is that people loose on human interactions, which they need like sun or healthy food vitamins.
It degrades a normal human being into a state where other problems start to appear.
And then we wonder, where are so many mental disorders come from today?
People need to socialize. No, they must to grow up and stay mentally healthy human beings.
Unfortunately, this simple truth is unknown to millions of parents.
 
This is weird. What about alcohol, gambling, tobacco and coffee industry executives? I am no fan of Zuck, but if he is liable for peopling getting addicted to social media, then the former should be investigated as well.
Fast food chain exectuives for people getting way too addicted to carbs and artifical taste enhancers. and so on...
 
Sorry Zuck, that's not the way it works. You signed off on the features and practices employed by FB/Meta, you're responsible whether you like it or not.
 
Sorry Zuck, that's not the way it works. You signed off on the features and practices employed by FB/Meta, you're responsible whether you like it or not.
That's exactly how it works. This is basic corporate law; Google "corporate veil" for details. And while exceptions can an occur, according to Harvard Law School, "courts acknowledge that their equitable authority to pierce the corporate veil is to be exercised “reluctantly” and “cautiously." It is typically done only in cases of corporate fraud, outright illegal behavior, or where the corporation itself is merely a legal fiction. As Wikipedia itself acknowledges:

"...There is no record of a successful piercing of the corporate veil for a publicly traded corporation because of the large number of shareholders and the extensive mandatory filings entailed in qualifying for listing on an exchange...."

 
Ridiculous. C suites need to start being held accountable when they screw up.
Addictive is a loaded word. How about we substitute "compelling to use" instead? I'm curious how gamers would respond to a court ruling that actually required game-makers to produce products that were *less* fun to play?
If that resulted in game companies NOT hiring psychologists to make their games "compelling" and refocused on fun games, I'm all for it.

And it is not just compelling. Multiple studies over the years have shown the adverse negative effects of social media, and the methods social media companies use to keep you hooked into their platform. That goes beyond "compelling" and strays into manipulative behavior.
 
I'm so tired of people blaming something else for their own actions. Designing their platform to increase the time people use it is no different than any other advertisement or store design that increases profits. It's also a platform where Facebook doesn't create much if any of their own content. If scrolling through content makes a person angry or upset, the solution is to block the content that makes them upset or avoid the platform. People choosing to be upset is on them.
 
Zuck: "Whoa! The consequences of my actions/choices as CEO are coming back to me... I'm surprised, I'm not liable."
 
Keep telling yourself that. MOUNTAINS of case law disagrees with you. You do you though. Carry on..
Total nonsense. In fact, it's never happened once in US history. To quote Wikipedia:

"There is no record of a successful piercing of the corporate veil for a publicly traded corporation..."


Cornell's Law School agrees:

"The total absence of piercing in publicly held corporations indicates the presence of factors in the public corporation setting that make the presumption of limited liability unassailable...."


Harvard Law states there are three justifications for piercing the corporate veil; none of them apply in this case:


You're likely confusing the tenets of this case with those (very few) instances where executives of a public corporation have been found guilty of criminal conduct. But that's an entirely different body of case law.
 
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Total nonsense. In fact, it's never happened once in US history. To quote Wikipedia:

"There is no record of a successful piercing of the corporate veil for a publicly traded corporation..."


Cornell's Law School agrees:

"The total absence of piercing in publicly held corporations indicates the presence of factors in the public corporation setting that make the presumption of limited liability unassailable...."


Harvard Law states there are three justifications for piercing the corporate veil; none of them apply in this case:


You're likely confusing the tenets of this case with those (very few) instances where executives of a public corporation have been found guilty of criminal conduct. But that's an entirely different body of case law.
So what you trying(and failing) to assert is that a CEO is immune to the accountabilities and proceedings of law? I don't need to explain how wrong you are because the shear number of officers of companies currently sitting in prison or have been in prison is too great to actually list here. It's COMMON knowledge.

NO operations officer for ANY company, regardless of charter, is immune to the proceeding of law. I'm not denying that there are some barriers, but your idea that they are immune is complete twaddle.

If Mark Zuckerberg signed off on and approved the use of technologies that intentionally caused harmful addictive behaviors in it's user base, that qualifies as a criminal actively that IS actionable against both the company AND him personally. It would also qualify as actionable on a civil level. These are facts. They are not disputable.

You can persist with the "blah, blah, blah" all you wish. You ARE incorrect.
 
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