Facebook Asks Judge To Dismiss Teens' Lawsuit About Social Ads

Facebook is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought on behalf of minors who say the company wrongly uses their names and photos in social ads.

The company says the teen users shouldn't be able to proceed in court because they didn't suffer any economic injury by the ads. The social networking service specifically asks U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg to reject the users' theory that Facebook's use of their names and likenesses to generate revenue translates to an economic loss to the users.

"That Facebook earns revenues from ads does not mean Plaintiffs suffered a cognizable injury to their interest in their names or likenesses,” Facebook says in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The company adds that the minors “do not allege that they ever intended to seek compensation for their endorsements or that a market for their endorsements exists.”

This case is similar to a class-action about sponsored stories ads, which Facebook recently settled for $20 million. The users in that matter alleged that the ads violated a California law banning companies from using people's names and photos in ads without their consent or, if they're minors, without their parents' consent.

But the teen users who brought this lawsuit allege that all Facebook's social ads -- not just sponsored stories, but also “premium ads" -- violate an Illinois law requiring companies to obtain people's consent before using their names and photos in endorsements.

Despite the value of their apparent endorsements, Facebook failed to obtain legal consent to use plaintiffs’ names or profile pictures in advertisements and plaintiffs were not paid for the use of their name or likeness in connection with the advertisement,” the teen users allege.

In addition to arguing that the users weren't injured, Facebook also says they consented to the use of their names and images by accepting the company's terms of service. Facebook notifies users about social ads in its “statement of rights and responsibilities,” which also require users to agree to its terms. But the minors who are suing say they are “legally incapable of consenting to Facebook’s commercialization of their identities because they are under the age of 18.

Facebook counters that the teens' acceptance of its terms of use is valid in California. The company says the users “cannot disaffirm their obligations ... because they already received (and continue to receive as of the date of this filing) the benefits of using Facebook.”

6 comments about "Facebook Asks Judge To Dismiss Teens' Lawsuit About Social Ads".
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  1. Artie White from Zoom Media Corp, November 8, 2013 at 4:48 p.m.

    Love the incoherent comment, Paula!

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, November 8, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.

    Analogous to the arguments against the child labour protection laws promulgated in the UK as a result of the Industrial Revolution - how could we possibly be causing the children harm when they are being paid money they would else have received?

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, November 8, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.

    Oops ... last line should read 'wouldn't otherwise received'. [Joe, any chance of a "Preview" function before posting, as typing into the little box provided can be difficult. It would also be nice to be able to use a layout format such as paragraphs.]

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, November 8, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.

    Now THAT one was my fault ... 'wouldn't otherwise have received'.

  5. Artie White from Zoom Media Corp, November 8, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.

    I don't think the analogy to child labor works here. It's not nefarious at all, really:
    - Facebook is free
    - no one is forced to use Facebook
    - teens and adults who voluntarily "like" a brand or a page are not being tricked or placed under duress
    - Facebook uses that info to tell that person's friends that he or she likes their brand, hoping they will consider doing so as well
    ...this just seems like normal advertising to me. I don't see why anyone feels they are owed money just because they don't understand the concept.

  6. John Grono from GAP Research, November 8, 2013 at 5:58 p.m.

    Artie, I wasn't equating FB to child labour. It was that the defence mounted by the industrialist against the legislation was along the lines of ' the children are receiving money they otherwise wouldn't have received' (i.e. we mightn't have paid them fairly but hell we did pay them) could be written in today's terminology something along the lines of "That the industrialist earns revenues from child labour does not mean that the children suffered a cognizable injury...”.

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