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social media account termination

All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Ninomiya Law, PLLC and Kent Ninomiya only provide legal advice to clients when there is a valid engagement agreement signed by both attorney and clients. The principal office of Ninomiya Law, PLLC is located in Round Rock, Texas. Ninomiya Law, PLLC is responsible for the content of this website.

​​​​​Social media websites can cancel user accounts for pretty much any reason. This can be a positive thing when they shut down terrorists and cyberstalkers, but unfortunate when it happens to the innocent. If the platform determines that you violated its terms of use, it can not only cancel the violating account, but also all the accounts associated with that account. That means a large corporation could end up losing all of their social media accounts because there was a violation on one of them. This is the so-called "death penalty" in social media. The death penalty can amount to a huge loss of investment to a business that depends on social media to survive and spent years creating a following. 

Take the example of the 3C Compassionate Care Center in Naperville, Illinois. Facebook removed its page because it sells medical marijuana. While this is legal in Illinois, it is a federally banned substance. Facebook has the power to remove it because it is their website and they make the rules. There are often disputes over the value of virtual property that is lost when accounts are terminated. If virtual currency or virtual property can only be used on a particular platform or cannot be transferred to another, do they just disappear or do that have real world value? Can you put a dollar value on them and compensate someone whose account was closed? The answers are unclear and would depend on the circumstances. 

The social media websites are stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between free speech and societal responsibility. In response to demands by governments and public pressure, they are taking measures to censor violent, hateful, and dangerous speech. However, one person's hate speech is another person's free expression. Totalitarian leaders in some countries attempt to quiet opposition by attempting to silence social media. It is a delicate balancing act deciding what should be banned and what should be allowed. It also raises the question, who should be deciding? Is it people working at the social media websites or the courts or legislators?

Expect much more on this debate in coming years as lawsuits ripen and courts are forced to decide cases. As of right now, it appears that all the power to make account termination decisions is with the website providers themselves. If they decide to impose the social media death penalty on you, you may have little recourse. Few have any meaningful appeals process and you might have to pursue legal action to even get them to acknowledge you.

The bottom line is be careful what you do on social media and make sure everyone who uses your social media is careful as well. Social media accounts represent a significant investment of time and resources. It would be a shame to lose them over a careless error. ​


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