Eight new lawsuits against Meta, Instagram ‘for exploiting young people for profit’

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Lawsuits have been filed in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas against Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook. The allegations are heavy, claiming “users’ prolonged exposure to Meta and its platforms has led to actual or attempted suicides, self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and reduced ability to sleep, among other mental health conditions” reports Fox Business.

The eight new lawsuits were filed by the Beasley Allen law Firm filed a series of complaints this week accusing the company of “exploiting young people for profit.” Meta is also accused of employing additive psychological tactics to get people to use their platforms more frequently and failing to protect young and at-risk users, according to a press release from Beasley Allen.

“The defendants knew that their products and related services were dangerous to young and impressionable children and teens, yet they completely disregarded their own information,” Beasley Allen attorney and Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield said in a Wednesday statement. “They implemented sophisticated algorithms designed to encourage frequent access to the platforms and prolonged exposure to harmful content.”

Referencing detrimental information that was unearthed during an October 5, 2021 Senate hearing which included  testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, the whistleblower who accused Meta of prioritizing profit over attempts to stop public harm.

“Social media use among young people should be viewed as a major contributor to the mental health crisis we face in the country,” Birchfield said. “These applications could have been designed to minimize any potential harm, but instead, a decision was made to aggressively addict adolescents in the name of corporate profits. It’s time for this company to acknowledge the growing concerns around the impact of social media on the mental health and well-being of this most vulnerable portion of our society and alter the algorithms and business objectives that have caused so much damage.”

Prior to the October 2021, hearing, Instagram acknowledged that its app can be harmful for young users after The Wall Street Journal released internal documents summarizing findings by researchers tapped by the tech giant to examine the app’s impact on young users’ mental health over the past three years. The study found that 32% of teen girls who “felt bad about their bodies” said Instagram made the issue worse, according to WSJ.

Fox Business reports:

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory in December 2021 warning of a growing youth mental health crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic as many young people spent time away from physical school and activities and more time online. 

Early estimates for 2020 show more than 6,600 suicide deaths among U.S. youth, ages 10 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Emergency room visits for suicide attempts among adolescent girls, in particular, rose by 51% during the pandemic, and emergency room visits among adolescent boys increased by 4% during the same time period, CDC data shows. Even prior to COVID-19, one in every five U.S. children between the ages of 3 and 17 experienced mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorders, a CDC report shows.

 

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