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Mark Zuckerberg is arguing he can't be held liable for kids' Instagram addiction just because he's the boss. He may be right.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis," in Dirksen building on Wednesday, January 31, 2024.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
  • Mark Zuckerberg is trying to avoid personal liability in lawsuits over kids' social media addiction.

  • Corporate law typically shields executives from personal liability, though there are exceptions.

  • If Zuckerberg is personally dropped from the lawsuits, it wouldn't dismiss cases against Meta.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is arguing he can't be held personally liable for accusations that his platforms have led to kids being addicted to social media — and he may have a point.

Zuckerberg's legal team was in court in Oakland, California, this week over a string of lawsuits filed against Meta and him personally by parents and schools that allege his actions and Meta's have harmed children by causing social media addiction, NBC Bay Area reported.

Zuckerberg has requested he personally be dropped from the two dozen lawsuits, which were filed by people from over a dozen states. A ruling in the billionaire's favor would excuse him from being held personally liable but would not dismiss the cases against Meta.

The lawsuits claim that Zuckerberg's actions and inaction led to social media addiction and accused him of ignoring warnings that Facebook and Instagram were unsafe for kids.

In court records viewed by Business Insider, Zuckerberg's lawyers said, "It is a fundamental principle that individuals cannot be held personally liable for the acts or omissions of a corporation based merely on their status as corporate executives, directors, or shareholders."

His lawyers reiterated their arguments in court on Friday, saying there is a clear difference between what Zuckerberg as an individual is personally liable for and his role as CEO, NBC Bay Area reported.

Lawyers for Zuckerberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent by Business Insider.

In corporate law, executives are typically shielded from personal liability, Bloomberg noted Friday.

The "corporate veil" — which generally refers to distinctions between a business and its owners — shields executives in most circumstances, although there are exceptions, according to an article from the law firm Oberheiden P.C.

Some situations in which executives can face liability include criminal acts and intentional or grossly negligent noncompliance. They can also face liability in lawsuits filed by third parties against a CEO, Oberheiden P.C. wrote, noting, "In these lawsuits, plaintiffs are not seeking to hold CEOs liable for corporate acts (or purportedly corporate acts), but instead for acts undertaken by CEOs in their individual capacities."

In other words, when a civil lawsuit is filed against a CEO over an action they personally took.

The plaintiffs argued in court that Zuckerberg had a duty to share findings related to social media risks for kids publicly, but US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers seemed skeptical of the argument, Bloomberg reported.

However, the outlet reported the judge did suggest if it's determined Meta had a duty to disclose that information, then it's possible the CEO could be held liable for concealing it.

"If Mark Zuckerberg knew the depth and breadth to which children were harmed on a daily basis by accessing and being addicted to the platforms that he is in charge of and did not take meaningful and significant action to remedy those harms, then he should be held personally liable," Titania Jordan of Bark Technologies, an online safety and parental controls company, told NBC Bay Area.

She added: "Now, if he can claim plausible deniability or if he was made aware of this and instructed his team to make it better or make it safer and they didn't, then that is on the company."

If Zuckerberg is deemed personally liable, it could have major implications for other lawsuits filed against CEOs of social media giants.

Read the original article on Business Insider