Doubtless most of you have seen a hoax posting on Facebook claiming Facebook will charge people $5.99 to maintain their privacy settings unless they cut and paste a legal disclaimer on their status. Here is why this hoax is ridiculous on its face and how hoaxes like this undercut the cause of people who have legitimate grievances against corporate wrongdoing.
One reason why this hoax is ridiculous: The Rome Statute
The Facebook hoax alleges Facebook is violating the “Rome Statute.” This is funny. The Rome Statute is part of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was established to prosecute war criminals and those who commit genocide. A commercial dispute with a social-media company wouldn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. The United States has never signed the treaty agreeing to be subject to the ICC, so American courts couldn’t hear a case under “The Rome Statute” even if Facebook was violating said statute.
Why hoaxes hurt consumers with legitimate grievances against corporations
The McDonald’s coffee case is ingrained into popular culture and is used an anecdote against those who file frivolous lawsuits and the supposedly greedy trial lawyers who represent them. The details of that case were exaggerated by those who seek to limit the rights of consumers. In fact many stories about crazy lawsuits are almost outright fabrications and hoaxes. These hoaxes are often shared via social media, just like the latest Facebook hoax.
Media coverage of the latest Facebook hoax is framed as a rational, benevolent technology company responding to crazies. But there are times when people have legitimate complaints against technology companies and may seek to address those complaints in court. Amazon’s mistreatment of white-collar professionals and its blue-collar warehouse workers are two examples. Like any other major corporations, technology corporations seek to use legal means such as arbitration clauses and immunity clauses to evade responsibility for their mistreatment of employees and consumers.
One of the main advocate groups against immunity and forced-arbitration clauses are trial lawyers through various trial-lawyers organizations like the American Association for Justice and their state-level counterparts. Believing and spreading hoaxes about Facebook privacy settings or crazy lawsuits serves the interests of those who would seek to prevent everyday people for addressing legitimate injuries and grievances in court.