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Social Media Addiction Lawsuits

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, have ensnared millions of individuals in addictive patterns, particularly affecting children and young adults. The consequences for these vulnerable users can be severe, ranging from eating disorders to depression, and in some tragic cases, even suicide.

Now social media companies are facing a growing surge of lawsuits claiming that they deliberately crafted their platform algorithms to entice young individuals into harmful addictions. Our national team of mass tort lawyers is actively pursuing lawsuits on behalf of those who developed social media addiction before the age of 21, resulting in significant physical harm. The physical injuries stemming from social media addiction may encompass outcomes such as suicide, self-harm, or the development of an eating disorder.


Social Media Addiction Litigation Updates

July 11, 2024: South Carolina Woman Joins MDL

A 21-year-old woman from South Carolina became one of the most recent plaintiffs to join the social media addiction class action MDL lawsuit this week. According to the complaint, the woman claims that she became addicted to various social media platforms starting in 2013. She alleges that her social media addiction caused her to develop eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. No self-harm or suicide attempts are alleged.

June 20, 2024: Lawyers Unable to Contact Clients

Lawyers for at least ten personal injury plaintiffs have informed defendants’ counsel that they have been unable to contact their clients. This lack of communication has resulted in some plaintiffs missing the court’s Plaintiff Fact Sheet submission deadline.

This makes it hard on everyone. These clients’ social media addiction attorneys can not maintain cases for unresponsive plaintiffs and will at some point need to withdraw from representation. The lawyers are currently discussing a protocol for managing attorney withdrawals and potential dismissals for failure to prosecute under Federal Rule 41(b).

June 17, 2024: U.S Surgeon General Calls For Social Media Warning Labels

 In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, the U.S. Surgeon General stated that social media platforms should be required to post a warning label similar to warnings we see on cigarettes. The waning label would state that social media use is associated with “significant mental health harms for adolescents.”

June 13, 2024: Mississippi Enacts Law Requiring Age Verification For Social Media

Mississippi recently enacted a law requiring social media companies to verify the age of all users, aiming to protect minors from harmful content. NetChoice LLC, a trade association and big-time lobbyist representing social media platforms, filed a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.

They argue that the law infringes on both adults’ and minors’ First Amendment rights by requiring personal information as a condition for accessing online speech. Additionally, the law mandates parental consent for minors and imposes content restrictions, potentially leading to excessive censorship.

The First Amendment is a big deal.  But our take is that simply requiring social media companies to verify the age of all users does not violate the First Amendment because it serves a strong governmental interest in protecting minors from harmful online content.

The law is designed to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate material and ensures parental consent for minor users, aligning with the state’s role in safeguarding the welfare of children. While the law imposes certain requirements on users and platforms, it is hardly an outright ban on speech.  The verification process is a reasonable measure that does not impede adults’ ability to engage in free speech. It is just an annoying two seconds to click a box.  The law has always allowed for reasonable restrictions on the First Amendment that serve compelling state interests.

June 8, 2024: Pretrial Discovery Battle

These types of lawsuits invariably have pretrial discovery battles, and this case is no exception.  Right now, the lawyers are battling over the nuances of how electronic discovery of Meta’s corporate documents.

June 7, 2024: Kentucky Woman Joins MDL

A woman from Louisville, Kentucky, became one of the most recent plaintiffs to join the social media addiction class action MDL. Her lawsuit alleges that her 12-year-old daughter became heavily addicted to TikTok and YouTube when she was around 8 years old allegedly causing her to develop anorexia and depression. The girl eventually attempted suicide and engaged in self-harm. TikTok and YouTube are the only social media platforms named as defendants in the lawsuit.

June 3, 2024: 20 New Cases Added to MDL

In May, 20 new cases were added to the social media addiction class action MDL, raising the total number of pending cases to 475.

May 29, 2024: Upcoming Case Management Conference 

The next Case Management Conference in this case is set for June 21, 2024, at 2:00 PM.

May 1, 2024: 16 New Cases Added to MDL

In April, the social media addiction class action MDL saw an addition of 16 new cases, bringing the total number of pending cases in the social media class action to 455.

April 1, 2024: 439 Pending Social Media Addiction Cases

 There are now 439 pending cases in the social media addiction class action MDL in the Northern District of California. The number of cases in the MDL has grown significantly since it was created and could eventually exceed 1,000.

March 26, 2024: Judge Peter H. Kang Cautions Against Last Minute Disclosures 

During a San Francisco hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter H. Kang addressed concerns raised by plaintiffs’ counsel regarding the absence of key executive witnesses from initial disclosures in the social media MDL class action. Plaintiffs allege that these platforms, driven by profit motives, harm minors’ mental health. Counsel for the plaintiffs criticized the defendants’ selective disclosure of potential witnesses, particularly the exclusion of high-profile executives like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel.

Judge Kang stressed the importance of timely and thorough disclosures, warning against attempts to delay or withhold relevant information. He cautioned both parties against last-minute efforts to supplement their disclosures, highlighting the potential consequences of such actions on witness testimony. Lawyers try to pull this kind of stuff all of the time and Judge Kang is issuing a warning that it will not work in this litigation.

February 2, 2024: Total MDL Cases Near 400 

Six new cases were added to the social media addiction MDL in January 2024. That brings the current pending case count up to 399.


Social Media Targets Teen

Teen addiction to social media has become a pervasive and concerning phenomenon in today’s digital age. With the widespread availability of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others, adolescents find themselves drawn by connectivity and instant gratification. According to recent data, around 90% of U.S. teenagers regularly use social media platforms. Studies estimate that on average, U.S. teens log about 3 hours a day engaging on social media platforms. Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms for young people and teenagers, with nearly 60 million users under the age of 18.

Companies that own social media platforms, including Meta Platforms (the parent company overseeing Facebook and Instagram), purposefully design their products to extend users’ screen time. Achieving this goal involves the strategic use of intricate algorithms that exploit human psychology. Meta, alongside other social media entities, consistently updates and tweaks their products to encourage prolonged engagement.

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These social media platforms have developed user interfaces deliberately showcasing content that holds particular allure for young users. The ubiquitous “feed” found on most social media platforms continually presents young users with an unending flow of content curated by algorithms based on the user’s data profile and interests.

Teens Are At Risk of Harm From Social Media Addiction

The adolescent human brain is still in the process of development, particularly in regions associated with risk evaluation, emotional control, and impulse control. Major social media platforms purposefully exploit this underdeveloped impulse and emotional control in the brains of teenage users through their algorithms.

When teenagers receive “likes” on social media, it triggers the release of dopamine in their brains, inducing a sense of euphoria. However, this pleasure is short-lived, as the adolescent brain adapts by reducing or “downregulating” the number of stimulated dopamine receptors. Unlike normal positive stimulation that allows the brain to return to a neutral state after a brief down period, social media algorithms capitalize on users’ natural inclination to counteract dejection by enticing them to seek more euphoria from the source.

Over time, as this cycle persists, the neurological baseline for triggering dopamine responses in teen users increases. The net result of this is that teenagers continue using platforms like Instagram not for enjoyment but to maintain a sense of normalcy. When they try to stop using social media, withdrawal symptoms akin to those associated with addictive substances appear, including anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and cravings.

The addictive usage of social media by minors shares psychological and neurological similarities with internet gaming disorder. Recognized as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization and other public health agencies, this pattern of behavior underscores the profound impact of social media on the developing minds of teenagers.

Social Media Profits From Teen Addiction

The financial success of social media companies hinges directly on the duration users spend on their platforms. Increased user engagement translates to higher revenues and profits. These companies consistently refine their technology to enhance user involvement, making the platform progressively more addictive, particularly for vulnerable teenage users.

In 2021, a former employee of Facebook testified before Congress, revealing that executives within the social media giant made marketing and business choices that jeopardized the well-being of teen users. The former employee emphasized that Facebook was well aware of the detrimental effects its platforms had on teenagers. In January 2024, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called before Congress to testify about the issue teen addiction to social media.

Research Shows Social Media Addiction Injures Teens

An expanding body of scientific research, inclusive of internal studies conducted by social media companies, underscores the potential for severe emotional and even physical harm resulting from teen addiction to social media.

In 2018, research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information established a clear link between the time spent on social media platforms and mental health concerns, depression, and suicidal thoughts among adolescents. The findings highlighted a correlation between excessive social media use and an increase in self-harm behavior.

A long-term study conducted by BYU in 2021 revealed clinically heightened suicide risks among teenage girls who spent 2-3 hours daily on social media. Additionally, research conducted by the social media companies themselves has confirmed the adverse effects of these platforms. According to a Wall Street Journal article, internal research by Facebook discovered significant mental health issues associated with Instagram use among teenage girls, including suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.

Social Media Addiction Class Action Lawsuit

Over the 2 years, an increasing number of product liability lawsuits have been initiated against Meta and other social media companies, aiming to establish their accountability for injuries stemming from teen addiction to social media platforms. These legal actions are being brought by teenagers or their parents, with the majority targeting Meta for addictions to its Instagram or Facebook platforms.

The lawsuits pertaining to social media harm contend that platforms like Facebook and Instagram were intentionally designed to be addictive, rendering them unreasonably hazardous for adolescent users. Additionally, the legal claims assert that the social media companies negligently omitted warnings to minor users and their parents about the potential risks of addiction and resulting harm.

Plaintiffs in these lawsuits are pursuing damages for severe physical injuries purportedly incurred due to teens developing addictions to Instagram and Facebook. The alleged injuries include self-mutilation, self-harm, severe eating disorders, and instances of death by suicide.

In early 2023, the social media addiction lawsuits in federal court were consolidated into a new class action MDL in the Northern District of California (In re: Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation). The MDL now has around 400 plaintiffs.

What Are the Injuries Alleged in Social Media Addiction Lawsuits?

To have valid social media addiction lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to be able to show that the teen suffered some type of tangible injury as a result of their addiction. Here are some of the primary social media addiction injuries being alleged in these cases.

  • Depression: Cyberbullying and constant comparison with other peers along with negative “trolling” or other negative feedback on social media frequently leads to clinical depression among teenagers.
  • Eating Disorders: Social media tends to promote unrealistic body appearance standards and negative “shaming” for those that fail to meet them. This has been shown to increase the risk of various eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and other disorders.
  • Anxiety: Social comparison and fear of missing from overusing social media has been linked to anxiety.
  • Suicide: Social media addiction has been show to contribute to an increase in the risk of teen suicide. This is clearly the saddest and most serious potential injury that we see in the social media lawsuits.
  • Self-Harm: Self-harming or self-mutilation is another potential side effect of excessive social media exposure.
  • Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: Social media is a known stalking ground for sexual predators and exposure to explicit content on social media platforms can lead to child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Potential Settlement Value of Social Media Addiction Lawsuits

Determining the potential settlement value of Facebook and other social media addiction lawsuits is currently premature, given the uncertainty surrounding their success. For speculative purposes, we can explore the hypothetical worth of these cases if they were to be successful.

Cases related to social media addiction leading to teen suicide would likely carry the highest potential settlement value. A wrongful death claim involving a young person with their entire life ahead could typically range from $1.5 to $5 million, contingent on the circumstances. Some wrongful death suicide cases might even surpass this range.

In contrast, social media addiction lawsuits involving less severe injuries, such as self-mutilation or an eating disorder, would likely have a considerably lower settlement value.

Contact Us About a Social Media Addiction Lawsuit

If you or your child has suffered serious physical or emotional harm as a result of addiction to social media, contact our lawyers today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.

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