Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) is facing eight lawsuits filed in courthouses across the US over the last week that allege that excessive exposure to platforms including Facebook and Instagram has led to attempted or actual suicides, eating disorders and sleeplessness, among other issues, Bloomberg reported. More specifically, the lawsuits claim that the company built algorithms into its platforms that lure young people into destructive addiction.
According to Bloomberg, one of the new suits was filed by Naomi Charles, a 22-year-old woman who says she stated using Meta platforms when she was a minor and that her addiction led to her to attempt suicide and other suffering. Naomi Charles, like other users, is seeking monetary damages to compensate for mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and costs of hospitalization and medical bills.
The claims in the suits include defective design, failure to warn, fraud, and negligence. The complaints were filed in federal court in Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri.
NBC News reported about a separate case, filed in the Northern District of California, which was filed on behalf of Alexis Spence, who was able to create her first Instagram account at the age of 11 without her parents’ knowledge and in violation of the platform’s minimum age requirement of 13.
According to NBC News, the complaint alleges that Instagram’s artificial intelligence engine almost immediately steered the then-fifth grader into an echo chamber of content glorifying anorexia and self-cutting, and systematically fostered her addiction to using the app. The lawsuit was filed by the Social Media Victims Law Center, a Seattle-based group that advocates for families of teens harmed online.
That lawsuit is the first of its kind to draw from the Facebook Papers, while exposing the real harm behind its findings, Alexis Spence’s attorneys say. The suit also features previously unpublished documents from the leaks, including one in which Meta identified “tweens” as “herd animals” who “want to find communities where they can fit in.” The attorney’s argue that the documents demonstrate Meta’s efforts to recruit underage users to its platforms.
NBC News also reported that Tammy Rodriguez, a Connecticut woman has filed a lawsuit against Meta and Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, over the company’s alleged roles in her 11-year-old daughter’s suicide last summer.
Business Insider reported about another lawsuit, filed by a Tennessee mother who claims that her 15-year-old daughter’s heavy use of Meta’s products led her to suicidal ideation and self-harm.
According to documents seen by Business Insider, the woman’s attorney’s said the daughter received notifications from the apps all day, causing her to become addicted to the apps. She also grappled with an eating disorder, severe anxiety, depression, and poor sleep, according to the lawsuit.
A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the litigation to Bloomberg, but noted that the company has developed tools for parents to track their children’s activity on Instagram and set time limits. Meta also offers “Take A Break” reminders that nudge users to take a moment away from social media
Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the solution is to point parents towards resources that could help them track their child’s activity on Instagram. The harm has already been done.