Thursday, February 13, 2014

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood: Why We Turned Down $290,000

$290,000. That’s a ton of money for a small nonprofit like CCFC—more than 90% of our 2013 budget.

When we were selected to receive that windfall as part of the settlement of a class action lawsuit, we were initially thrilled. CCFC was one of thirteen nonprofit organizations chosen to receive a cy pres award as part of the settlement of the Fraley v. Facebook lawsuit. Among other issues, the lawsuit addressed Facebook’s use of teenagers’ names and images in advertisements without permission from parents.

We knew that all settlements are compromises, but we believed this one would help protect teens on Facebook. But after reading objections from advocacy groups whose work aligns with ours, we began to have doubts. So we consulted an independent firm of consumer protection lawyers to get their expert opinion.

We now believe that this settlement is actually worse than no settlement. It harms vulnerable teenagers and their families under the guise of helping them. Its purported protections are largely illusory and it will actually undermine future efforts to protect minors on Facebook. In fact, it is in direct violation of our mission to help parents raise healthy families by limiting commercial access to children.

For these reasons, we are refusing the money and opposing the settlement. Today we filed a letter to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit urging the court to overturn the settlement and spur the plaintiffs and Facebook to negotiate an agreement that would really protect minors. It’s the first time—ever—an advocacy organization has turned down a cy pres award in order to oppose a settlement.

Here's what you can do to help:

  • Share this story from today’s New York Times which details CCFC’s and other advocacy group’s objections to the Facebook settlement.
  • Spread the word CCFC about CCFC’s unwavering commitment to children by sharing this email with family and friends. And please share it on Facebook & Twitter, too.
  • We’re proud that we steadfastly value children more than the bottom line. And we’re proud of this decision, even though it was costly. We hope that you’re proud, too. Please consider a special donation to CCFC today. 
We recognize that it’s unusual for a small nonprofit like us to turn down such a large sum of money. We could do a lot of good with $290,000. But we choose not to benefit from a settlement which we now realize is harmful to children and will impede future efforts to protect minors’ privacy on Facebook. We will not compromise our integrity, the trust of our supporters, and, especially, the wellbeing of children.

Thanks for you all you do,

Susan Linn & Josh Golin
Director & Associate Director