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What are my Legal Options if my Social Media Account is Suspended?

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a caller who says “My social media account was suspended, what are my legal options?”

Well, this question is a bit off topic. It does not deal with personal injury law directly. But, since we do often advise people of the hazards of posting to social media while a lawsuit is pending, we’ll address the question anyway.

Freedom of speech is a simple concept.

Modern day social media is little more than an electronic traditional daily newspaper which affords people the opportunity to state their opinions for free. Like a newspaper printing a letter to the editor.

Of course, the social media platform makes money by permitting people to by ads and intersperse those ads along a user’s media time line. Pretty inventive way to make money isn’t it?

Since the social media platform essentially owns the paper, ink and printing press, the law permits the platform owner to decline to publish the opinions of those with whom he or she disagrees.

So, if your social media account is suspended is there nothing you can do?

Maybe not. But, since modern social media publishing piggy backs off of radio signals owned by the public couldn’t the government step in and “regulate” and set strict criteria for blocking ideas not welcomed by the owner of a media site? Sure. But would government end up further restricting free speech?

Though a well-crafted narrow statutory limitation, i.e. “media outlets may only limit speech explicitly calling for physical violence”, might be enacted to throttle social media publisher efforts to limit speech, bureaucratic “regulators” could abuse regulatory power and expand the definition of speech that could be suppressed. That is the slippery slope argument you often hear.

But, what about a law that, instead of regulating social media sites through an unwieldly government regulatory agency, simply permits a person who has their speech blacked out for an illegitimate reason to sue in court for liquidated damages? Liquidated damages are basically predetermined damages that can be obtained so as to eliminate the need to prove specific harm.

A law permitting liquidated damages might be very effective and would read something like:

“… any person who has been restricted in their freedom to post to a social media platforms which utilizes public radio frequencies for any reason other than for speech explicitly calling for physical violence, may sue for an injunction to compel the unrestricted dissemination of such speech, as well as liquidated damages of $50,000.00 per day per violation”.

Such a law would be self-enforcing. The person seeking to enforce the law would have to hire an attorney and spend money to pursue the remedy. But having to pay money to wrongly blocked users might make media sites hesitate to arbitrarily shut down a user’s speech, or shadow ban their account.

But what can people who fear being blocked legally do as a means of self-help right now? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Social media opinion-maker-stars who thrive on posting and who fear being blocked could buy their own modern-day newspaper. They could invest in their own domain name and make sure that name is widely known, and set up a website with a host that will not block them. Then if a block on a social media site occurs a platform exists for their followers to seek them out.
  2. Social media stars could be more social. Follow back all their followers and encourage all followers to follow other followers. This could make it much more difficult to isolate people who are well interconnected. Further, sharing of email addresses could make newsletter dissemination of opinions via email impossible to stop if a media platform gets frozen.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.