Meta Platforms Inc. is now a leader in another social media trend — lawsuits claiming the company built algorithms in its platforms that lure young people into destructive addiction.
Eight lawsuits filed in courthouses across the US over the last week allege that excessive exposure to platforms including Facebook and Instagram has led to attempted or actual suicides, eating disorders and sleeplessness, among other issues.
“These applications could have been designed to minimize potential harm, but instead, a decision was made to aggressively addict adolescents in the name of corporate profits,” attorney Andy Birchfield, a principal at Beasley Allen, the law firm that filed the suits, said in a statement Wednesday.
The complaints add to a spurt of recent cases against Meta and Snap Inc., including some filed by parents whose children took their own lives. The litigation follows a former Facebook employee’s high-profile testimony in Congress that the company refused to take responsibility for harming the mental health of its youngest users.
A spokesperson for Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.
Meta said in April that it’s improving the tools it provides for parents to keep track of what their children are doing on its platforms. The company also said that for teens in particular, it sends a “Take A Break” reminder that nudges them toward different topics if they’ve dwelled on one subject for a long time.
One of the new suits was filed by Naomi Charles, a 22-year-old woman who says she started using Meta platforms when she was a minor and that her addiction led to her to attempt suicide and other suffering.
Meta “misrepresented the safety, utility, and non-addictive properties of their products,” according to the complaint in Miami federal court.
Charles, like the 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 courts in Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri. Bloomberg