Suit Charges Facebook Violates Law Shielding Minors

Facebook was hit with a potential class-action lawsuit for allegedly violating a California law that prohibits the use of minors' names or photos in ads without parental permission.

The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Facebook transforms people into endorsers via the "like" button. When Facebook users say they like particular products or advertisers, that information -- along with the users' photos -- is sent to their Facebook friends. "The apparent endorsement of a good or service in an advertisement by one member who is recognizable to other persons will generate higher 'click-throughs' and greater revenues to a paying advertiser, and thereby to Facebook," the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of minors David Cohen and Shelby Orland, states that Facebook's use of its like button violates a California law requiring that parents give permission before minors' names or likenesses can be used in ads. "Facebook makes no effort to obtain parental consent," the complaint asserts.

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In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook tells marketers that using a child's name or photo in an ad "can increase marketing returns by 400% compared to advertising that does not include an endorsement from the name or likeness of a child."

A Facebook spokesperson said the lawsuit was without merit and that the company intends to fight it vigorously.

Cohen and Orland also allege in the complaint that Facebook uses names and photos of children to entice other minors into joining the social networking service. Children who are searching for their friends allegedly are directed to landing pages where they can create their own accounts. "The landing page solicitation to join the Facebook network is made more effective by including the name and likenesses of the person being sought in the search," the lawsuit alleges.

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