EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) – Facebook asked a federal judge to dismiss a class action accusing it of exploiting children, claiming that Facebook users’ “like” statements qualify as matters of public interest.
“Expressions of consumer opinion, such as the plaintiffs’ Like statements challenged here, have repeatedly qualified as matters of public interest under the First Amendment,” Facebook claimed in a motion seeking “more definite statement or dismissal.”
On behalf of their children, Melissa Dawes and Jennifer DeYoung filed a class action on June 1, claiming Facebook’s non-negotiable terms of membership that say its members are subject to such advertising and marketing do not apply to minor children.
The plaintiffs say children lack the capacity to consent to the use of their name and photographs for marketing, advertising and selling of goods and services.
Facebook uses users’ “Like” statements to advertise products. Facebook claims republishing the “Likes” is protected and provides a service.
“By republishing a user’s name or likeness along with the true statement – already shared with the user’s Friends – that he or she ‘Likes’ certain content being advertised on its website, Facebook provides a forum for authentic endorsements by persons who, without pecuniary motive, have expressed their approval of a particular product, service, or cause,” Facebook claims.
“This serves a particularly valuable public interest because the information is republished only to the user’s friends – persons for whom a user’s opinion may be of particular interest, and with whom the user has already decided to share that information. Consequently, Facebook has a right under IRPA [Illinois Right of Publicity Act] to republish information that the courts have explicitly recognized relates to matters of public interest.”
Facebook also claims that the plaintiffs failed specify which law it broke.
“Plaintiffs’ vague references to unspecified ‘state law’ render their claims unintelligible, prejudice Facebook’s ability to prepare its defense, and will hinder the Court’s efforts to evaluate the sufficiency of plaintiffs’ claims,” Facebook says.
“This defect requires dismissal and a more definite statement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e).”
Facebook cited a similar case in California Federal Court that was dismissed.
Represented by Matthew D. Brown with Cooley LLP of San Francisco, Facebook seeks oral argument, and wants the complaint dismissed with prejudice.