Instagram Sued over harm to young people’s mental health. In a recent lawsuit, Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, has been accused of not being honest with the public about the risks of using social media, especially about the mental health of young people. The lawsuit was brought forward by many US states. They claim that Meta used features designed to keep users hooked while hiding the significant dangers of its platforms. Meta expressed its disappointment with these allegations.

Instagram Sued Over Harm To Young People’s Mental Health
Instagram Sued Over Harm To Young People’s Mental Health

The lawsuit contends that Meta violated consumer protection laws through misleading behavior. It also accused the company of collecting data from children under 13, which goes against its obligations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The New York Attorney General, Letitia James, one of 33 attorneys general involved in the lawsuit, stated that social media companies, including Meta, have played a role in a nationwide youth mental health crisis, and they should be held accountable. Nine other states also made similar claims in their own lawsuits.

A spokesperson for Meta stated that the company shares the commitment of the attorneys general to provide a safe and positive online experience for teenagers. They mentioned that Meta has introduced more than 30 tools to support teens and their families. The spokesperson expressed disappointment that the attorneys general chose to take legal action instead of working collaboratively with the industry to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the various apps used by teenagers.

Meta, along with other social media companies, already faces numerous lawsuits in the US from families, young individuals, and school districts regarding the impact on mental health. This lawsuit is the largest action taken thus far. It comes after an investigation into the company’s practices in 2021 by several state prosecutors, prompted by whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony, in which she claimed that the company was aware that its products could harm children.

Meta has contested the notion that Instagram is harmful to the mental health of young people, saying that research does not support the idea that it is “toxic” for teen girls. However, there is substantial research indicating that spending extended periods on social media can negatively affect the mental health of young individuals.

In the UK, an inquiry into the death of Molly Russell concluded that she passed away due to the “negative effects of online content.” The states involved in the lawsuit are seeking financial compensation and an end to what they consider to be harmful practices by Meta.

While large portions of the lawsuit remain confidential, it specifically mentions features like likes, alerts, and filters that are alleged to promote body dysmorphia in young users. Body dysmorphia makes individuals excessively worry about perceived flaws in their appearance, which often go unnoticed by others. The lawsuit claims that Meta’s design choices and practices exploit and contribute to young users’ susceptibility to addiction.

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