Why we turned down $290,000

By: Susan Linn & Josh Golin

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

So when we were selected to receive that amount as part of the settlement of a class action lawsuit, we were 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 initially believed this one would help protect teens on Facebook. But after reading objections from other advocacy groups 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.

We recognize that it’s unusual for a small non-profit like us to turn down such a large sum of money. We could do a lot of good with $290,000. But we cannot 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.

You can read more about our decision and our concerns about the settlement in our letter to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and today’s New York Times.