Millions of individuals in the United States maintain both personal and business accounts on social media platforms, a handful of which dominate the market for online content. However, if one of these platforms removes an account without cause, the affected user has little recourse because most platforms’ Terms of Service contain clauses allowing them to terminate user accounts for any reason. Nevertheless, as the power imbalance between platforms and users grows, scholars and judges are starting to believe that there is a need for greater regulation of these platforms. This note explores the ramifications of the social media regulatory gaps for users whose accounts are terminated without cause. Such users may suffer serious financial harm if they use the platforms to advertise or monetize their content, as well as emotional damage relating to the loss of content in which they had invested for years. While platforms used Section 230 in the past to escape liability, in recent years, users have increasingly been able to move their cases past the initial motions to dismiss on breach of contract theories. That said, there is no consistent standard for US courts to use when they encounter users suing platforms for wrongfully terminates accounts. This note posits that a legislative solution be enacted to provide a singular standard to assess such claims. The proposed law will prevent social media platforms from making arbitrary decisions regarding user accounts by requiring them to document the reasons for removing an account and hold them accountable as algorithms play a larger role in the way that platforms monitor content. By removing platforms’ unilateral right to terminate accounts without cause, this solution will help address the ever-growing power gap between platforms and their users.
Bernie G. Toledano,
If You Can’t Beat Them, Get Even: A Proposal to Level the Playing Field Between Social Media Platforms and Their Wrongfully Removed Users,
88 Brook. L. Rev.
Available at: https://brooklynworks.brooklaw.edu/blr/vol88/iss1/7