Meta and Instagram hit with 8 lawsuits for “exploitation of young people for profit”

Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, faces eight new lawsuits after lawyers at law firm Beasley Allen filed a series of complaints this week accusing the company of exploiting young people for profit.

The complaints also accuse Meta of employing additive psychological tactics to get people to use their platforms more frequently and of failing to protect young and at-risk users, according to a press release from Beasley Allen.

“Defendants knew their related products and services were dangerous to young and impressionable children and adolescents, but they completely ignored their own information,” Andy Birchfield, Beasley Allen attorney and head of the Mass Torts Section, said in a statement. a press release on Wednesday. “They have implemented sophisticated algorithms designed to encourage frequent access to platforms and prolonged exposure to harmful content.”

Lawsuits filed in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas allege that users’ prolonged exposure to Meta and its platforms has led to actual suicides or from suicide attempts, self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and reduced ability to sleep, among other mental health issues.

Beasley Allen referenced an October 5, 2021 Senate hearing that included testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who accused Meta of prioritizing profit over attempts to stop public harm.

Lawsuits against Meta were filed in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.
AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

“Social media use among young people should be seen as a major contributor to the mental health crisis we face in the country,” Birchfield said. “These apps could have been designed to minimize any potential harm, but instead a decision has been made to aggressively drug teens in the name of corporate profit. It’s time for this company to recognize the growing concerns about the impact of social media on the mental health and well-being of this most vulnerable part of our society and to alter the algorithms and business goals that have caused so much damage.

Ahead of the October 2021 hearing, Instagram admitted its app could be harmful to young users after the Wall Street Journal published internal documents summarizing the findings of researchers brought in by the tech giant to examine the impact of the app on the mental health of young users in the past. three years. The study found that 32% of teenage girls who ‘felt bad about their bodies’ said Instagram made the problem worse, according to WSJ.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen accused Meta of prioritizing profit over attempts to stop public harm in 2021.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen accused Meta of prioritizing profit over attempts to stop public harm in 2021.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, said in a September 2021 blog post that the platform supports research, which demonstrates the company’s “commitment to understanding the complex and difficult issues facing young people. may be experiencing, and informs of all the work “Instagram is doing” to help those who are experiencing these issues.

“We are proud that our app can give voice to those who have been marginalized, that it can help friends and families stay connected around the world, that it can cause societal change; but we also know it can be a place where people have negative experiences, as the Journal reported today,” Newton said in the blog post.

Instagram’s head of public policy added that the company is taking steps to address issues such as bullying, self-harm, suicide and eating disorders as they relate to users. The app has created features to help users “protect against bullying” and gives users the ability to hide the number of “likes” on their posts.

More than 40% of Instagram users are under 22, and about 22 million teenagers use the app every day, the WSJ reported, citing Facebook documents. A 2018 Pew Research survey that Newton cited in his blog post on Tuesday found that 81% of teens aged 13 to 17 found that social media in general made them feel more connected, while 26% said they did not feel safe.

Four in 10 teens said they only post on social media to look good to others, and more than half of teens surveyed said they had “unfollowed” or “unfollowed” other users because bullying.

The Beasley Allen lawsuits are one of several lawsuits filed against Meta over the past year accusing the tech company and its platforms of facilitating harm against young users. The various complaints point to a burgeoning mental health crisis among young Americans that appears to correlate with the rise of technology and social media.

United States 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 were going through time away from physical school and activities and more time online.

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

ED visits for attempted suicide among teenage girls, in particular, increased by 51% during the pandemic, and teen ER visits increased by 4% over the same period, CDC the data shows. Even before COVID-19, one in five American children between the ages of 3 and 17 suffered from a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder, a CDC report shows.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 800-273-8255.

For those who don’t want to speak to an adviser, there is also a national crisis text line available 24/7 by texting “home” to 741741.

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