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Facebook’s Connection to Brooklyn Suicide, cont’d.

Posted by Andrew J. Barovick | Feb 22, 2009 | 0 Comments

If you examine Facebook's Terms of Use, you will see that at least one of its attorneys anticipated that Facebook could be used in the context of bringing harm to someone.  Here is the what Facebook has on its site regarding “user content.”

User Content Posted on the Site

You are solely responsible for the photos, profiles (including your name, image, and likeness), messages, notes, text, information, music, video, advertisements, listings, and other content that you upload, publish or display (hereinafter, “post”) on or through the Service or the Site, or transmit to or share with other users (collectively the “User Content”). You may not post, transmit, or share User Content on the Site or Service that you did not create or that you do not have permission to post. You understand and agree that the Company may, but is not obligated to, review the Site and may delete or remove (without notice) any Site Content or User Content in its sole discretion, for any reason or no reason, including User Content that in the sole judgment of the Company violates this Agreement or the Facebook Code of Conduct , or which might be offensive, illegal, or that might violate the rights, harm, or threaten the safety of users or others. You are solely responsible at your sole cost and expense for creating backup copies and replacing any User Content you post or store on the Site or provide to the Company.

As is clear from the above paragraph, the Company may review the Site and remove anything it views as troublesome, including content that “might… harm, or threaten the safety of users or others.”   Common sense suggests that Facebook does, in fact, review all content, or its employees would never know about the very behavior that they allow themselves to ban from the site, in their discretion.  The cryptic, pre-suicide postings by the young man who hung himself in a Brooklyn park certainly raised the idea that his safety was in jeopardy, and that he might harm himself.

Was Facebook under a legal obligation to take any steps to intervene and prevent the suicide?  Do the above “terms of use” regarding user content affect the liability picture?   Was it reasonably foreseeable that a Facebook “member” who wrote such cryptic posts on the site would then take his own life?   Just asking.

About the Author

Andrew J. Barovick

Mr. Barovick is a graduate of Columbia College and Cardozo School of Law. He began his legal career at the Queens District Attorney’s Office, where he tried over 20 felonies to verdict, and argued an equal number of appeals before the Appellate Division, Second Department, the New York Court of Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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