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Lawsuit filed in September 2022 accuses Instagram/Meta/Facebook of detrimental profiteering off teens’ deep vulnerabilities and causing life-threatening injuries from Instagram use

In September 2022, Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel filed a federal injury lawsuit in Utah on behalf of Mandy and Douglas Westwood and their minor daughter, B.W., a teen Instagram user, alleging that Meta/Facebook’s Instagram platform is designed to hook young users like B.W in a manner that endangers their health and welfare, leading B.W. and many others to suffer from severe eating disorders such as anorexia.

In November 2022, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers appointed Lieff Cabraser partner Lexi J. Hazam as Co-Lead Counsel for plaintiffs in the nationwide multi-district litigation against major social media platforms including Facebook/Instagram (owned by Meta), TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube (owned by Google), alleging the platforms cause addiction and mental health problems in adolescents, including body image issues, anxiety, suicidality, depression, and eating disorders, due to the dangerous, defective, and profit-driven design of algorithmic recommendations, and inadequate parental controls and age verification.

With regard to the initial lawsuit against Meta, Ms. Hazam noted, “Instagram has profited off of young people’s vulnerabilities for long enough. The Instagram platform is insidiously designed to exploit the developing brains and insecurities of young users to keep them ‘engaged’ and on the service for as often and as long as possible, harming their mental and physical health. The death rate for anorexia is higher than for all other causes of death for adolescent females.”

As detailed in the original complaint, studies and internal documents from Instagram “confirmed what social scientists have long suspected: social media products like Instagram—and Instagram in particular—can cause serious harm to the mental and physical health of young users, especially to teenage girls like B.W.. Worse, this capacity for harm is not accidental but by design: what makes Instagram a profitable enterprise for Meta is precisely what harms its young users.”

As also noted in that complaint, Meta/Instagram earned nearly $70 billion from ad revenue in 2019 alone: “The success of this business model depends on Meta’s ability to keep its users on its products (and thus exposed to its clients’ advertising) for as long and as often as possible.” The lawsuit makes claims that include strict products liability for defective design, failure to warn, negligence, fraudulent concealment, negligent nondisclosure, and deceptive and unconscionable business practices, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as all other just and proper relief.

During initial arguments on dismissal early in the MDL, Ms. Hazam presented several novel legal theories regarding potential defenses that might be expected to come up during ongoing dismissal arguments in the case, such as the immunity protections tech companies are allowed under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, and whether social media sites constitute “products.” The litigation is ongoing.

Recognized National Child Advocacy Lawyers at Lieff Cabraser

Lieff Cabraser has litigated to protect and advance the rights of internet users, especially child and young adult internet users, for decades, including in cases aimed at curtailing the illegal and deceptive acquisition and monetization of young user’s deeply private and personal identity and location information as well as cases seeking to eradicate sex trafficking and related degradations across multiple social media platforms. Our civil rights and privacy cases have led to judgments and settlements for our clients valued at over $8 billion as well as significant and enduring changes to law and corporate policy for the benefit of all.

Contact us today about your child’s Instagram issues

If you or your child is an Instagram or other social media user and has reported or experienced any of these negative reactions, disorders, or behavior spiraling you or they believe to be related to social media use, we urge you to use the form on this page to contact a children’s rights lawyer at Lieff Cabraser today about your case and possible recovery.

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All information you provide will be kept in the strictest confidence, and will help us hold the social media giants accountable for their dangerous and destructive predations on American youth.

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