Social Media Lawsuits
Social media lawsuits allege that several platforms, primarily the parent company of Facebook and Instagram—Meta, has contributed to a significant rise in the number of teens suffering severe mental health disorders. Parents with a child younger than 19 may be able to recover compensation if their child was diagnosed or hospitalized with the following conditions:
- Suicidal ideation
- Attempted suicide
- Binge Eating
- Body dysmorphic disorder
Thousands of parents are in the early stages of filing lawsuits against Meta Platforms Inc., the company behind giant social media platforms Instagram and Facebook. These Alogirthm Lawsuits allege that Facebook has long known about the negative effects its algorithm has on children and teens. The Carlson Law Firm’s Social Media Lawsuit Lawyers’ involvement in these lawsuits may potentially include more social media platforms in the future.
Risks for Reward: The Social Media Business Model
Even adults can attest to the fact that social media tends to promote feelings of inadequacy about your life or appearance. Playing on these insecurities is what social media companies are built on. They want users to engage with their platforms as frequently as possible for as long as possible. In turn, this user attention is then sold to advertisers for revenue.
Social media platforms have leveraged their algorithms to exploit the psychological and neurological vulnerabilities of children and teens—particularly girls—for their own gain. The platforms aim to keep users engaged through activities most people are familiar with, such as infinite scrolls, likes, comments and push notifications.
Social media platforms have built their modern algorithms around the desire for social validation—especially among child users.
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Why are there Lawsuits Against Meta?
One of the many questions, our law firm gets asked is why we are pursuing social media lawsuits. For starters, we were shocked by the testimony we saw from Frances Haugen in 2021 about Facebook’s failures to responsibly run a platform with so much power.
According to Ms. Haugen, Facebook failed to warn users about its dangerous algorithm and failed to implement change. What Ms. Haugen’s brought to the attention of plaintiff’s attorneys is that Facebook is a defective product.
Facebook (now known as Meta) failed to warn consumers about the following:
- Highly addictive features
- Social media addiction
- Social media’s effects on mental and physical health
- Children suffer social media addiction and mental health crises at alarming rates
- The severity of harm is greater for minors
In addition, the company provided no real instructions on how to use its products safely.
How does Social Media Affect Mental Health?
Casual users of social media know that the algorithms are designed to keep users engaged and returning. It doesn’t take a data scientist to know that the algorithms serve what you want to see and will send you push notifications to ensure you open the app several times a day. However, former employees and documents continue to highlight social media companies designed these products with little regard for user safety.
Social Media is Addictive
Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook, said in 2017 that the social media platform was designed to be addictive. Ways that social media platforms keep users engaged include the following:
- Infinite scrolls
- Likes/ Reactions
- Intermittent Variable Rewards
- Engagement-Based ranking
- Push Notifications
Parker noted that the above gave users “a little dopamine hit every once in a while” through likes or comments on photos or posts. This creates a vicious cycle of users sharing more content in search of high likes and comments.
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” Parker said at an Axios event.
Inadequate Safeguards on Social Media
Most social media platforms say in their terms of service that you must be at least 13 years old to use, however, Meta and several others fail to actually verify a users age—despite the fact that age estimating technology exists. For example, platforms like Tinder use age verification to ensure its users are at least 18. In addition to no age verification, social media platforms fail by:
- Lack of parental control
- No self-limiting tools
- No age-based content filtering
Harmful Algorithms Intensify Teen Mental Disorders
One of the most alarming aspects of social media, Meta in particular, is just how harmful and dangerous the algorithms actually are. Not only do these algorithms drive addiction, but Meta’s own internal documents indicate the company was aware that 13.5% of teen girls on Instagram say the platform made thoughts of suicide or self-injury worse and 17% say of teen girls say the platform made “eating issues” worse.
The MSI Algorithm: How Facebook Led the Way
Legend has it, on windy October nights, you can hear 30-something millennials reminiscing about the old days of Facebook and Instagram. Among millennials, the first generation to adopt social media as a way of life, there’s a yearning to return to the days of chronological order. An ancient time not so long ago when you could log onto Instagram or Facebook and see posts you actually hadn’t seen from people or brands you actually follow.
Unfortunately for millennials and elder Gen Z’s, a return to chronological order is unlikely to return. The reason is obvious: Meta has no financial incentive to do so.
What Prompted the Shift Away From the Chronological Order Newsfeed?
In 2017, Facebook realized that it had a massive problem on its hands—users were “liking”, commenting on and sharing posts less. As such, the company was seriously concerned about its popularity among teens and young adults. According to research, year over year, teens were spending 16% less time on Facebook and young adults were spending 5% less time. Without an engaged young user base, Facebook risked significant revenue.
For this reason, in January 2018, Facebook transitioned to a new metric called “meaningful social interaction” (MSI). This new metric allowed Facebook to measure user interactions through an “amplification algorithm” that considered:
- Users’ past interactions with similar content
Based on the above, the new algorithm would then display posts in the user’s newsfeed that met certain benchmarks. The more MSI a user has, the more likely the user is to engage with the platform.
The MSI algorithm essentially relies on intense reactions from users. In addition to its severe effects on youth, critics also say that the MSI algorithm gave rise to misinformation campaigns that have led to genocide and helped organize the Jan. 6 Capitol Siege.
How Old do You Have to be on Social Media?
As we have tried to demonstrate through our research, social media platforms covet youth. While many believe that social media platforms require their users be 18, this is simply not the case. In many cases, the terms of service require users to be just 13 years old. Social media age requirements are as follows:
- Facebook – age 13
- Instagram – age 13
- YouTube – age 13
- YouTube kids – all ages with parental consent
- Twitter – age 13
- TikTok – requires parental consent if under 18
If you have any questions about terms of service, our Social Media Harm Lawyers can answer any additional questions you may have.
Why do Social Media Lawsuits Only Include Teens?
There are two main reasons social media lawsuits are currently only representing teens.
- Meta’s entire strategy for retaining and attracting young users hinged on preying on the human psychology of dopamine rewards.
- The algorithm was meant to keep young users engaged.
For the most part, adults have a fixed sense of self and thus are far less likely to experience the severity of mental health disorders associated with social media algorithms.
These companies made decisions based on human psychology that preyed on the vulnerability of young, growing minds to grow their profits. Further, these companies ignored their own research about the dangers of their products while profiting billion of dollars annually. This behavior is no different than pharmaceutical companies that keep dangerous medications on the shelves with no warnings about fatal or life-altering side effects.
Social Rewards: Kids’ Brains are Different
During the pre-teen years, compliments take on a whole new meaning. According to the American Psychological Association, “starting around age 10, children’s brains undergo a fundamental shift that spurs them to seek social rewards, including attention and approval from their peers.” The happy hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine multiply in a part of the brain, making preteens extra sensitive to attention and admiration from others.
The Human Brain Doesn’t Fully Develop Until Age 25
The part of the brain responsible for judgment isn’t fully developed until around age 25. For this reason, teens and young adults are driven by reward with very little regard for reason. Teens often experience the following:
- Can’t control their emotions
- Seek risks
- Cannot plan adequately
- Behave impulsively
As a result, children, teens and young adults are susceptible to being influenced in ways that may lead to a significant decline in their physical and mental health.
Who is responsible: Parents or Companies?
It is heartless to say to a parent who is doing their best to help their child navigate mental illness, that they are responsible for their child’s condition. It is easy to assign accountability when you are not in this position. However, when you take a step back and truly assess the current status of social media platforms, social media as we know it in 2022 has only been around since 2018. No parent could’ve predicted the significant effect that these powerful algorithms would have on their children.
In addition, while parents can implement rules that limit social media use, there is no surefire way to prevent teens from accessing these products. Often, children feel pressure from their peers to download the latest social media app to continue the addiction cycle. These companies designed machine learning algorithms that increased the amount of time a person spends on the platforms. Simultaneously, the algorithm serves content that is harmful to young users.
The bottom line is social media companies made available a defective product that led to severe mental health disorders. To further illustrate this point, these companies knew that if parents became aware of the truth about their platforms, they would lose money. As such, they withheld this information from the public and continued these dangerous practices.
We have to hold companies accountable when they put profits over people.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
The Carlson Law Firm is helping lead the charge in holding these companies accountable. Through their own surveys, these companies were fully aware that teens were:
- Unhappy with the amount of time they spent on social media; and
- their inability to stop.
However, social media companies like Meta made zero effort to change their practices.
If your child suffers from an eating disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm or they died by suicide after using Instagram or Facebook, you may be able to join legal action against these companies.
We are still in the early stages of the lawsuit investigation. Our legal team is ready to take your call.