Can Websites Like Facebook Be Held Liable for Product Liability?
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet companies like Facebook from liability for a significant amount of what occurs on their platforms, has been getting a good amount of attention in the news of late due to a lawsuit that has been filed against Facebook in Texas and other states over the company allegedly not doing enough to protect people from the dangers associated with its product; specifically, the act of sex trafficking of minors. In this sense, some are making the claim that websites like Facebook should be held liable in the same way that manufacturers are for product liability claims.
The basis of these lawsuits involves victims meeting their traffickers on websites like Facebook and Instagram or, in some circumstances, being sold on these sites. As a result, the lawsuit argues that the “product” (i.e. website) brings the sex trafficker “right into the living room of the child.”
Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act
In response, Facebook is relying on Section 230 and using it to argue that it provides them with immunity from any and all liability from claims like these (negligence/product liability). In fact, it has long been the contention of internet companies that there would be no possible end to product liability claims if they were to be held accountable for product liability claims when it comes to content and activities engaged in by third parties. Section 230 specifically states that no provider (i.e. Facebook) should be treated as a publisher or speaker of any information provided by someone or something else, nor shall they be held liable on account of the availability of material that the provider or a user considers to be excessively violent, harassing, filthy, obscene, lascivious, or otherwise objectionable; regardless of whether that material is constitutionally protected.
However, plaintiffs in this case also argue that a federal law known as “FOSTA-SESTA” provides the shield against the immunity argument and in favor of the product liability argument that they are making because it was Congress’ intent for the law to provide a broad tool with which to fight sex trafficking. Specifically, they argue that it provides an exception to Section 230 in that publishers (i.e. Facebook) would be liable if third parties are posting content that serves as ads for sex work on their platforms.
Contact Our Texas Product Liability Defense Attorneys to Find Out More
Product liability isn’t always traditionally limited to manufacturers; plaintiffs have become creative in applying these principles to a myriad of companies, including internet companies. At the law firm of Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer L.L.P. provides the very best in product liability defense. We understand what is at stake when it comes to expanding claims like these. Contact us at our Brownsville product liability defense attorneys today to find out more about our services.