Me No Like: Facebook Sued for Letting Tykes Like

Posted August 31, 2010 in Internet Law by Arthur Buono

Facebook illegally profits from children who "like" ads on the social networking site. So says a class action lawsuit alleging Facebook misappropriates the names and likenesses of kids when they like products and services advertised there. The lawsuit also gives a glimpse at how Facebook’s "like" feature adds economic value to its franchise.

 
  • Facebook’s "like" feature lets users – including minors – endorse products and services
  • California law prohibits use of a child’s name or likeness without parental consent
  • State and federal laws aim to limit exploitation of children for commercial gain
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Protecting Kids from Exploitation via Internet

Here’s the gist of it. California law prohibits the use of a person’s likeness or name for commercial purposes without their consent. When kids like an advertisement they see on Facebook, it’s an endorsement of a product. But kids who aren’t 18 years old are legally incapable of giving consent. Ergo (or as the lawyers prefer, "cha-ching") Facebook is violating the law by letting kids do this. The complaint’s embedded below.

The same applies to the advertisers sued as "John Does 1-100." The lawsuit even says Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities does not include a consent for the use of the member’s name and likeness for marketing or commercial purposes. In any case Facebook and the law look to be on a collision course when it comes to minors liking commercial products and services.

This is not just clever lawyering. The law is trending in favor of protecting children from exploitation of all sorts. This is not new. For example, the Children’s Television Act of 1990 directed the FCC to limit the amount of advertising that can be shown during children’s television programming. More recently the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prevents website operators from collecting personal information from children without their parent’s consent. Kids "like" Facebook. Let’s see how Facebook returns the like.

Complaint (as Filed) – Cohen v Facebook Inc