Seeking either clarification or dismissal of claims alleging that it has violated state law by republishing the product or service preferences (“Likes”) of children younger than age 18 as accompaniments to paid advertisements without first obtaining parental consent, Facebook, Inc. argues that the claims are insufficiently pleaded, fail to state a claim or are preempted by federal law. Dawes ex rel. E.K.D. v. Facebook, Inc., No. 11-00461 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Ill., motion filed August 1, 2011). Facebook explains that the plaintiffs are teenagers who shared their Internet “Likes” with their friends and that Facebook may then redisplay the preference to the same friends along with an advertisement for the relevant company’s Website.
According to Facebook, the plaintiffs have failed to indicate how they have been injured because they failed to allege “that their personal information had any ascertainable ‘value’ or any facts supporting the claimed ‘lessening’ of that value.” Facebook also contends that the plaintiffs are attempting to “create a parental consent requirement for teenagers’ Internet use that lawmakers, for sound policy and First Amendment reasons, rejected.” Because Facebook forbids children younger than age 13 from using its site, the company states that “Plaintiffs seek to hold Facebook liable for not obtaining parental consent for the very group of minors that Congress determined should not be subject to a parental consent requirement.”
The company also states, “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.” Because state law exempts newsworthy speech from liability for misappropriation, and because the plaintiffs’ “Likes” involve a matter of public interest, Facebook claims that it “has a right under [state law] to republish information that courts have explicitly recognized relates to matters of public interest.”