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Meta and 'Call of Duty' publisher sued by Uvalde families in wrongful death suit

Suits like this don't typically yield success for plaintiffs.
Meta and 'Call of Duty' publisher sued by Uvalde families in wrongful death suit Credit: Sergio Flores / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Nearly two years after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, families of the victims are taking legal action against Meta and Activision Blizzard, claiming that these tech corporations played a role in the tragedy.

According to Politico, the lawsuit filed on Friday claims that Meta-owned Instagram and the popular Call of Duty game franchise helped market the weapon used by Salvador Ramos in the 2022 shooting that killed 21 people, including 19 elementary school children.

The complaints argue that Daniel Defense, the gun manufacturer, used Instagram to reach minors, while Activision’s games encouraged violent behavior in teenage boys. Meta is targeted for allegedly not overseeing its platforms properly, allowing gun manufacturers to connect with young users. While Meta doesn’t allow direct gun ads, it does let companies like Daniel Defense have profiles on Facebook and Instagram, allowing them to post favorable content about their products and attract user engagement.

Legal actions targeting video game companies for gun violence are not new but rarely succeed. Critics like author and law enforcement trainer Dave Grossman argue that violent games like those in the Call of Duty franchise desensitize players and train them for real-world violence. There's significant debate among researchers about whether or not such claims have any actual merit. Courts have often sided with game developers in such cases, citing First Amendment protections and a lack of direct evidence linking gaming to actual violence.

In a statement to Politico, Activision Blizzard expressed sympathy for the families but emphasized that many gamers do not commit violent acts. Meta and Daniel Defense had not yet commented as of Politico's report.

The families, represented by the law firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, also filed a separate lawsuit against Daniel Defense in Uvalde County District Court. Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder has a history with similar cases, having previously secured $73 million from the firearms company Remington in a settlement after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. That legal case succeeded in the face of challenges posed by federal immunity laws for firearm manufacturers.

Additionally, the same group of families announced on Wednesday their intention to file a $500 million federal lawsuit against nearly 100 state police officers involved in the botched response to the shooting.

This case could potentially challenge a notable piece of legislation: Section 230 of the 1998 Communications Decency Act — which shields online platforms from liability for user content. The Supreme Court recently upheld this provision, keeping it unchanged in related cases. As Mashable has previously noted, Section 230 often comes under scrutiny, and changes to the act, or its legal standing in the courts have the potential to change the internet significantly.

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