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A legal look at liability for cyberbullying, negligence, and suicide

Are Social Media Platforms Responsible for Suicides?

Social media platforms have been a wonderful invention for many people across the world. Social media has helped families stay connected over long distances, it’s helped people find their old classmates with whom they’d fallen out of touch. Social media has even reunited adopted children with their biological parents. Unfortunately, social media platforms also have a dark side. Facebook Live has hosted countless suicides, Instagram accounts have contributed to numerous cases of anorexia among young teens, and almost every teen has been a victim of bullying on social media. These cases have caused us to ask, Who is liable for the damaging effects of social media?

What Do Platforms Actually Do?

Social media companies have created a platform, but nothing else. Simply put, social media platforms have created a venue for content to be posted. However, social media platforms have not created the content itself. Social media companies  argue that they cannot be held responsible for what other people say on their platform. Furthermore, because social media is just the platform, holding them liable for how others use their platform may be difficult. This is because social media platforms are not necessarily legally responsible for the actions of people who are misusing their platform.

How Platforms Have Minimized Bullying

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have taken measures to minimize their liability. Facebook and Instagram have created resources for those who are experiencing cyberbullying. They’ve also created features to block, restrict, and unfollow users who are posting disturbing content, or harassing other users. However, there is not much preventing problematic users from creating another account and continuing to harass others. Due to this, it may just be safer for victims of bullying to stay off of social media altogether. But even that solution has issues, since it punishes the victims of bullying by banning them from social media when they’ve done nothing wrong.

When Social Media Platforms Are Defective

A woman is currently suing the social media app, YOLO, after her 16-year-old son has committed suicide after experiencing cyberbullying over the app. The arguments that have been made in the past consider social media platforms to be so dangerous that they’re actually defective. However, holding social media platforms accountable for the features they offer may be an uphill battle. Since laws are typically built case by case, and social media is relatively new, there aren’t a lot of laws and regulations that can hold social media platforms responsible for the way consumers are using their features. Social media companies have tried to limit their liability  somewhat by doing things like posting suicide hotline numbers and other messages, and tightening moderation, but how much a social media company has to do to avoid liability hasn’t been clearly decided yet.

Suing the Bully

Though suing the social media platform itself may be difficult, you could sue the parents of the person engaging in cyberbullying, or you could sue the person engaging in bullying if they’re over 18. However, the parents of the bully, or the bully themselves, may not have any assets. Also, many parents are suing social media platforms in hopes of inspiring societal change. But personally suing people over cyberbullying is less likely to inspire such great changes.

When You’ve Lost a Child to Suicide

If you have lost a child due to suicide, Moxie Law Group is sincerely sorry for your loss. If you are thinking about ending your life, please reach out for help today. There are many resources available for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and self harm behavior. If you have a child who is on social media, it’s important to know the warning signs that they may harm themselves. Look out for warning signs that your child may be experiencing bullying or considering suicide. Do not hesitate to get them help today.