The mother of a 14-year-old Colorado girl who became addicted to social media sued the parent company of Facebook and Instagram earlier this month on grounds that the company intentionally designed addictive, dangerous products and failed to warn potential users. Harm
The federal lawsuit against Meta, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, is one of at least eight lawsuits with similar claims nationwide, brought this month by an Alabama law firm. Attorney Clinton Richardson alleged that Meta is liable for product liability, including design defects, manufacturing defects, and failure to warn users of the dangers of social media.
“Overall, it’s really about accountability,” Richardson said. “We want them to be held accountable for what they are doing and what is fueling the mental health crisis in the United States. Facebook has placed its business model of profit at all costs above the well-being of the youth.
Denver attorney Randy Barnhart said the lawsuit relied largely on untested legal logic, which is “way out of bounds.”
“This is a very unusual and interesting case,” Barnhart said. “Usually when we think of product liability, we think of one item, one thing – a car, a tyre, a room heater. Here, it looks like Facebook is selling a service. And so I think whether this is a fair product liability claim or not is an open question… Liability Litigation.
Richardson argued in the complaints that Meta knew that teens, in particular, were vulnerable to excessive social media use, and yet deliberately used its platform to encourage younger users to spend as much time as possible on social media sites. By using mechanisms such as “likes”, displaying three dots when another user is typing a message, and curating feeds to keep users logged in.
All told, Meta’s algorithm optimizes for angry, divisive and polarizing content because it will increase its number of users and the amount of time users stay on the platform per viewing session, increasing its appeal to advertisers. , thereby increasing its overall value and profitability,” reads the complaint in the Colorado case.
For teen social media users, platforms such as Instagram lead to poor self-esteem, body image and bullying, the complaint argues. The lawsuit alleges that shortly after the 14-year-old Castle Rock girl opened her social media accounts, her interest in any activity other than viewing and posting on the meta platform progressively decreased.
According to the lawsuit, she slept less as the addiction worsened, claims the complaint, and eventually engaged in self-harm, developed an eating disorder and attempted suicide. The Denver Post is not identifying the girl or her mother, as she is a minor. The family declined to comment through Richardson.
An Instagram spokesperson declined to comment on the matter on Thursday, but Meta previously denied that the company made a profit on security last year, saying it had to spend $5 billion on safety and security in 2021. and it employs about 40,000 people. user security.
Fort Collins attorney Tom Metier said the lawsuit raises “viable” arguments.
“According to the complaint there is a pattern … (accreditation of the company) what will make Meta more popular and therefore generate more profits in advertising dollars, and at some point, and apparently at many points, it is alleged that The choice was made to create harm in lieu of profit,” he said. “And so is a deliberate one that could be disastrous for the meta.”
He said that in most product liability cases, manufacturers of physical products need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their products and consider what damages the products may cause. Companies have a duty to make products that are reasonably safe, and when a product cannot be made physically safe, companies must warn consumers about the “truth of the dangers.”
Similarly, parents who haven’t grown up using Instagram and Facebook need to be told about the real psychological danger of the platform, he said.
“Saying, ‘You should monitor your children’s computer and cellphone and social media use’ is completely inadequate,” he said. “Because it doesn’t tell you the information you need to know about suicide rates, self-abuse, a lot of things that happen as a result.”
Richardson said the lawsuits emerged from the testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen before Congress last year.
Haugen claimed that the company’s internal research found poor mental health for girls on Instagram, a photo-sharing platform, the site in particular, led to body image problems and in some cases to eating disorders or suicidal thoughts. Inspired to She backed up her report with thousands of pages of copied documents before leaving her job at Facebook, where she worked in the company’s civil integrity unit.
Richardson said he expects to file “dozens” more such lawsuits against Meta.