An intriguing lawsuit coming out of the UK could be a game-changer not just for Facebook, but for Social Media platforms in general. The lawsuit is being launched by Martin Lewis, who is suing Facebook for allowing deceptive ads on its platform that claim Lewis endorsed products he did not endorse. Lewis is a consumer rights advocate, and thus any perception that he would be a paid endorser of products would be damaging to his reputation.
Lewis is alleging that, despite their claims, Facebook is a publisher, not simply a platform for people to publish their work on. If the suit is successful, this would set a precedent around the world that could put Facebook and other Social Media platforms in a position that would require them to filter and approve content placed on their platform far beyond what we’ve seen so far.
A victory in this case would be extremely bad for the free exchange of ideas, something that Lewis, an alleged consumer rights advocate should understand clearly (and I say alleged, because if this man thinks creating a standard that makes it near-impossible for social media to allow information to freely flow on its platform is good for consumers, then he is hardly qualified to call himself a consumer rights advocate)
|Facebook still claims it’s not a publisher – but Martin Lewis’s court action could be set to change that|
…..Here they will find health secretary Jeremy Hunt raising the spectre of legislation over concerns that social media firms are “turning a blind eye” to underage use and online bullying. And they will also, in the High Court, find consumer campaigner Martin Lewis launching highly significant legal action against the company……
For a man who has built a reputation on championing the rights of consumers, the regular appearance of such ads is plainly harmful. Lewis argues that he should not have to report them to Facebook in order for them to be removed from the site, which is what happens at present. Since he does not – as a matter of policy – appear in any adverts, he believes Facebook should stop them from appearing in the first place.
At the root of this case lie some key questions. The first is quite technical: is Facebook a publisher or is it simply a platform which enables publication by others?
Since publishers have to accept liability for the material they use, it comes as no great shock that Facebook remains reluctant to admit that it fits the description.
However, that disinclination taps into the second, broader, question raised by Lewis’s case – and by other recent events – which is this: what degree of responsibility must Facebook take for things that have happened as a result of its existence? This includes fake news promoted to gullible users; dodgy ads which make false claims about questionable investments; data harvesting by the likes of Cambridge Analytica; online bullying of vulnerable teenagers and children; the livestreaming of suicides; and lots else besides.