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Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok Face Legal Battles Regarding Dangerous Teen Social Media Addiction

In a recent legal development, the state of Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against Meta, alleging that CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed worries about Instagram features negatively impacting users’ mental health. The lawsuit, unveiled in Suffolk Superior Court, claims that concerns about plastic surgery filters on Instagram and Facebook were raised as early as 2019, with mental health experts urging their removal, particularly for the well-being of young users, especially women.

The court documents cite an internal email where Instagram’s then-head of policy pleaded with Zuckerberg to disable the filters, expressing concerns about actively encouraging body dysmorphia in young girls. However, the lawsuit asserts that Zuckerberg chose to allow “plastic surgery simulation camera filters” on Meta’s platforms, maintaining a ‘clear demand’ and falsely denying any data indicating harm.

Meta Knew What Was Happening

The extensive 100-page lawsuit further alleges that Meta deliberately ignored its internal research, highlighting the harmful and addictive nature of its platforms. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the lawsuit, claiming that from 2018 to 2022, Meta consistently neglected additional investments to enhance the well-being of young users.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that teens who spend over three hours daily on social media face an increased susceptibility to mental health issues. Claims may exist for individuals who spend over three hours daily on any of the big 4 (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, or Facebook) and have received medical care connected to related conditions. These include depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, suicide, and eating disorders.

Instagram and Eating Disorders

Instagram, primarily centered around visual content, accentuates lifestyles and individual beauty, potentially contributing to the development of body image concerns and eating disorders. An illustrative 2021 experiment conducted by CNN involved the creation of a fictitious account posing as a 13-year-old girl. Subsequently, Instagram promoted accounts like “Sweet Skinny,” “Prettily Skinny,” and “Wanna Be Skinny” to this simulated profile.

Parents, educators, and mental health professionals should be aware of the potential risks and encourage healthy online behaviors, body positivity, and open communication with teens about self-image.

States Suing Social Media Companies

Massachusetts joins numerous other states in suing Meta over claims that its platforms adversely affect the mental health of young individuals. A federal lawsuit in October, along with parallel state lawsuits, accused Meta of knowingly designing and deploying harmful features on Instagram and Facebook to addict children and teens intentionally.

The legal action argues that Meta has consistently prioritized targeting young users and tailored its platform features to manipulate and exploit their developing brains, ensuring prolonged and repetitive use.

If successful, Massachusetts’ lawsuit against Meta could result in civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, and the company may be compelled to pay restitution to users.