Protecting Your Social Media Investment

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Apr 14, 2016

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YouTubeMany businesses derive a substantial portion of their income through social media. Some businesses (for example, some very popular YouTube channels) derive almost all their income from social media. According to Forbes, a 25-year-old video gamer by the name of Felix Kjellberg earns $12 million a year on YouTube.

Businesses pay, one way or another, for their followers on social media. Whether it’s through developing top-notch content or paying for social media advertising or other forms of promotion, it takes time and money to build a large number of followers on social media.

But what if the social media channel wipes out your investment with the push of a button? It’s happened more than once.

Social Media Vulnerabilities

The main thing that has gotten people into trouble with social media services is violating their Terms of Service Agreements. Here are three examples of things that have caused people to lose their social media investments:

  1. Artificially inflating likes or views
  2. Friending strangers
  3. Posting objectionable content

Popularity breeds popularity. “Going viral” is every marketer’s dream on social media. So some people may look for ways to boost their likes or views, to make their content seem more popular, which will in turn help make them truly more popular.

The problem is that social media platforms don’t like it when people try to game the system.

What the Courts Say

In two cases involving like or view inflation, the courts held that the social media platform was acting within its right to delete the link or view counts.

In Lewis v. YouTube the court found that because there was a limited liability clause in YouTube’s Terms of Service, the company could not be held liable for financial damages, and there was nothing in the Terms of Service to compel YouTube to continue hosting any particular content or content statistics.

In Song Fi v. Google the court ruled that YouTube’s Terms of Service clearly allowed the company to remove content at its sole discretion.

In a case relating to friending strangers on Facebook, Young v. Facebook, Karen Young claimed that YouTube acted in bad faith. The court held that she failed to prove bad faith or violation of any contractual obligations.

Another case that was content-related was brought by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a group that advocates for an independent Sikh country in the Indian state of Punjab. Facebook blocked the page in India, and SFJ charged that Facebook did this at the request of the Indian government. They charged Facebook with race discrimination among other changes. The judge dismissed the case, because under the “Communications Decency Act” interactive computer services are exempted from being considered publishers.

Bottom Line

To protect your investment in your social media accounts, it’s important to make sure you carefully comply with everything in the Terms of Service. If your content or account does get blocked there might not be much you can do about it.

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