Over 2,000 families are pursuing lawsuits against social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, over claims that the companies failed to protect youth from dangerous content, creating a mental health crisis among teenagers and adolescents. The lawsuits seek to hold these platforms and their parent companies accountable for the harm they caused.
Despite a growing body of research dating back at least five years linking social media use among youth to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicidality, it wasn’t until April 2021 that people began to realize that the tech giants behind these platforms were not only failing to protect children and teens from inappropriate contact, they were using sophisticated algorithms to collect their personal data, increasing their profits while exposing vulnerable teens to worrisome content.
The Facebook Whistleblower
In April 2021, Frances Haugen resigned from her position as a data scientist at Facebook and released a trove of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal, including online employee discussions, research reports, and drafts of presentations made to senior management. The documents revealed that Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Meta) had lied or hidden information from the public about, among other issues, the platform’s impact on the mental health of young users. Keeping the whistleblower’s identity confidential, the WSJ published a series of reports on those documents, revealing to the world that the platforms knew they were harming children but failed to protect them.
Six months later, on October 3, 2021, CBS’ 60 Minutes aired an interview with Haugen, one day before she testified at a U.S. Senate hearing. Haugen explained how Facebook’s algorithm prioritized keeping users active rather than promoting their own safety. For example, she said, a teenager could easily be lured away from watching a post about healthy recipes to one that glorified anorexia.
“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth,” she testified during the Senate hearing. “Almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook. The company’s leadership keeps vital information from the public, the U.S. government, its shareholders, and governments around the world.”
Social Media Harm on Vulnerable Youth
Even before the Facebook Whistleblower came forward with deceptive tactics the platform used to lure young users to their apps and keep them scrolling once they got there, research began linking the use of social media among teens and tweens to a range of physical and psychological harm. Here are just some of the conditions caused or aggravated by social media use in youth.
- Body dysphoria
- Eating Disorders: binge eating, bulimia, anorexia
- Injuries or death due to social media challenges
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sexual victimization and exploitation
- Self-harm or self-harm ideation
- Suicide or suicidal ideation
Contact a Lawyer to Discuss Whether You are Eligible to File a Lawsuit Against Social Media Platforms
The Facebook whistleblower highlighted how much the social media company knew about the harm the tech giant was causing youth and how it failed to protect them. If you or your child was harmed after using Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or another platform, you deserve compensation for your suffering. Contact the experienced mass tort lawyers at Legal Lawsuit News today at 866-467-0943 or through our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation, and learn your legal options.