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When It Comes To Minors, You Can Be Liable For What’s On Your Website


Let’s say that you have a website that has some component of social media or social interaction. Perhaps your website invites comments or commentary. Not all of that commentary will be helpful—in fact, much of it will be harmful, especially when it comes to minors.

Could you be liable if a minor harms himself or others, for things that are posted on your website?

TikTok Gets Sued

This is exactly the problem that TikTok is now having, as it faces lawsuits for another challenge being posted by users.

TikTok is no stranger to these challenges. These are generally challenges posted by social media users that challenge other people to engage in a particular activity. Some are harmless—some even propose to spread the challenge in the name of a charity. But others can be very dangerous.

A recent challenge was called the “blackout challenge,” and it challenged its users to actually choke themselves until they black out (and to film it and of course, post it to TikTok). When a group of preteens did the challenge, and died, the family members filed a lawsuit against TikTok.

Liability With Minors

You may be wondering why your business would be liable for such reckless behavior voluntarily conducted by website users. But when it comes to sites that solicit, invoke, or know that minors are using the site, the rules are a little different.

This is exactly what the lawsuit alleges—specifically, that TikTok placed these challenges on the teenagers’ feeds, and that TikTok did just that, without taking steps to verify the ages of the profile owners.

The lawsuit alleges that had TikTok taken steps to determine the ages of the kids, it could have and should have kept the challenges from appearing on their feeds, knowing that the teenagers would be particularly susceptible to trying such a dangerous endeavor.

When Are You Liable?

There is no “test” to see when you, as a website owner, should be careful. But if you know that there are minors using your site, you need to take some steps to ensure that the minors don’t get access to things that they should not.

That includes not just things that could induce them to purposefully or accidentally hurt themselves, but things that could induce or encourage them to hurt other people.

Generally, the more dangerous or potentially dangerous the material on your site is, the more steps that you should take to ensure that only people who are old enough, access that information. If you are able to institute a verification system for age, you should do so–and always remove content that is blatantly illegal or which encourages people to engage in illegal activity.

Saying your site is just a clearinghouse for ideas and that you don’t have anything to do with the content, is not a foolproof legal defense.

Call the West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today if you have a question about any business law related matter.




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