Facebook Ordered to Pay Users $20 Million

technology, facebook, settlement, class action lawsuit

In January of this year  millions of affected Facebook subscribers received an email requesting a response to a lawsuit. Users had until May of this year to submit their claim, but many thought it was spam. So, how many of those same users deleted the email? They may have missed out on a whopping $10-$15 from a $20 million dollar suit that will be settled soon. Remember those pesky ads that were appearing on the feed side-bar that said your BFF Suzie Smith liked Target and you should too? Users became upset their names were being used for free advertising and a class-action lawsuit was born.

The class action suit started when several users became tired of being used for free advertising. Large companies took advantage of their likes and plastered the faces of users on millions of pages to promote likes from their friends. Facebook admitted no wrongdoing in the suit, but did agree to issue the settlement. Over 7,000 Facebook users opted out of the lawsuit. This allows them to pursue Facebook individually for any losses sustained. The social media giant promised to give its dedicated users more control on how content, including likes, are shared and handled. Attorneys for Facebook said its total losses from the lawsuits would be about $145 million.

Facebook charged advertisers close to $234 million for those sponsored ads between January 2011 and August 2012. The result of $10-$15 back to over a hundred million users seems low, especially for consumers who may have had an extensive friend list and who liked a company based on their friend’s unintended referral. Some of those individuals may be part of the thousands that opted out of the class-action and may seek an individual suit. It seems Facebook refuses to apologize for much. Recently, the social media king declined to pay a young hacker who found a vulnerability in Facebook’s coding. Facebook thanked him for his contribution after Khalili Shreateh posted on Zuckerberg’s wall. No apology was given and neither was a formally promised award. The sponsored ads issue also failed, yet again, to draw an apology or admittance of wrongdoing from Facebook.

Many children’s rights advocates were angry with the result of the lawsuit. Part of the anger stems from the fact that children’s and teens’ profile pictures were used to promote advertisers. This caused red flags for millions of parents, and it’s another reason why many parents are delaying access to social media for their children. Hopefully, with the new controls in place, these issues will now come to an end. The judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, stated the terms of the settlement, and said the payout has “significant value.”

The millions of users that will receive not only lunch money, but peace of mind about greater privacy, can thank the five plaintiffs who stood up globally against the media giant and won. Granted, $20 million may be significant to the judge but greater still were the voices of the same users who provide Facebook its fundamental base. For too long the social media giant has built a path of success off the back of users and advertisers. One can hope they start apologizing over their antics before the reality of MySpace comes true for Facebook. Google Plus is already outranking Twitter; is it only a matter of time before it does the same to Facebook?

Angelina Bouc

(op-ed)

Sources

Efiling of suit document

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