Federal Judge Clears Facebook's Zuckerberg Of Personal Liability In 25 'Social Media Addiction' Cases

A federal judge has ruled Meta Platforms, Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will not face personal liability in 25 legal complaints alleging his social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, have harmed children.

federal judge clears facebooks zuckerberg of personal liability in 25 social media addiction cases

Meta is facing dozens of separate legal complaints alleging the company failed to sufficiently warn adolescent users about the potentially addictive nature of their social media platforms. Those various complaints were consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL) currently being handled by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Twenty-five of the complaints sought to hold Mr. Zuckerberg personally liable for the harm allegedly caused by his social media platforms, but U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued a ruling on Monday granting his motion to dismiss the cases.

Plaintiffs in the cases had argued that Mr. Zuckerberg had a specific duty to disclose to users the potentially addictive nature of his platforms due to his public stature as the head of Meta and his public statements. The plaintiffs asserted Mr. Zuckerberg repeated partial representations of Meta’s safety practices through numerous public appearances. The plaintiffs argued Mr. Zuckerberg’s alleged failure to make more fulsome public claims about his company made him liable for fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation by omission.

But Judge Rogers said the plaintiffs could not rely on Mr. Zuckerberg’s comparative knowledge about Meta’s products to establish he personally owed such a duty to each plaintiff.

Such a ruling, she said, would create “a duty to disclose for any individual recognizable to the public.”

“The Court will not countenance such a novel approach here,” she wrote.

Judge Rogers ultimately dismissed plaintiffs’ claims of fraudulent misrepresentation by omission or nondisclosure under Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin state laws. She further dismissed plaintiffs’ claims of negligent misrepresentation by omission that was cited under the laws of Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Plaintiffs Can Amend Claims Against Zuckerberg

Judge Rogers’ decision clears Mr. Zuckerberg of personal liability in these cases for the time being. In her Monday decision, the federal judge granted the plaintiffs a limited opportunity to revise their claims against the billionaire social media mogul.

“Given the insufficient briefing, the Court cannot conclude that plaintiffs’ nascent theory of corporate officer liability is fatally flawed,” Judge Rogers wrote.

The federal judge said the plaintiffs in the 25 complaints that sought to hold Mr. Zuckerberg personally liable could file one consolidated addendum revising their existing allegations and laying out any additional allegations they may try to assert against Mr. Zuckerberg in his role as Meta CEO.

While Mr. Zuckerberg is currently clear of any personal liability in the MDL lawsuit, his company remains a defendant in the ongoing litigation.

In addition to naming Meta Platform’s Inc. as a defendant, the plaintiffs’ claims also seek to hold Meta’s payment processing wing Meta Payments Inc. liable. WhatsApp, an instant messaging and calling application owned by Meta is also listed as a separate defendant in the case.

The sprawling litigation goes beyond Meta to target other apps that are not owned by Mr. Zuckerberg.

TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are also listed as defendants, as are Alphabet (which operates the Google search engine and YouTube), Snap Inc. (which operates Snapchat), the Discord instant messaging and call service, and the online gaming platform Roblox.

The lawsuits say the children suffered physical, mental, and emotional harm from social media use, including anxiety, depression, and even suicide. The various complaints seek damages and a halt to harmful practices allegedly adopted by the defendant technology companies.

Authored by Ryan Morgan via The Epoch Times April 17th 2024