Instagram sued over harm to young people’s mental health

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Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, has been under fire for allegedly spreading false information to the public about the dangers of social media use and for fueling the juvenile mental health problem.

Dozens of US states announced the federal lawsuit in which the claims were made.

Allegations are made that the firm concealed the “substantial dangers” of its platforms while using addictive features to “ensnare” people.

“Disappointed” was how Meta put it.

According to the lawsuit, Meta engaged in “deceptive” behavior, violating consumer protection regulations.

Additionally, it claimed that the business disregarded its responsibilities under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by gathering data on children younger than thirteen.

One of the 33 attorneys general who signed the lawsuit was New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable,” James stated.

Nine more states filed complaints based on identical allegations.

According to a Meta representative, the firm has “already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families” and shares the attorneys general’s goal to “providing teens with safe, positive experiences online”.

“We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path,” a spokeswoman said.

Due to the negative effects on mental health, families, youth, and school districts have already brought hundreds of lawsuits against Meta and other social media firms in the US.

The largest action to date is this.

It comes after a whistleblower named Frances Haugen testified in the US that the corporation knew its goods may harm children, leading to an inquiry of the company’s actions by multiple state prosecutors in 2021.

Meta disputes the idea that Instagram is bad for the mental health of young people.

It is merely untrue that this study indicates Instagram is “toxic” for teenage girls, vice president and head of research at Meta Pratiti Raychoudhury stated at the time.

“The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced” , said Ms Raychoudhury.

Studies do appear to indicate that there is no connection between Facebook’s development and psychological harm.

However, a large body of research has also shown that youth mental health may suffer when they spend a lot of time on social media.

According to a coroner investigating Molly Russell’s death in the UK, the student suffered from the “negative effects of online content” at the time of her death.

The states are requesting monetary compensation as well as an end to Meta’s purportedly detrimental actions.

The public is not allowed to view large chunks of the complaint. However, it mentions features like likes, notifications, and filters in particular that it claims are “known to promote young users’ body dysmorphia”. When someone has body dysmorphia, they worry excessively about perceived imperfections in their appearance, which are frequently invisible to other people.

“Meta’s design choices and practices take advantage of and contribute to young users’ susceptibility to addiction,” the complaint stated.

Credits: BBC

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