Social Media Platforms Alleged Exploitation of Minors' Addiction: Class Action Lawsuit

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Social Media Platforms Alleged Exploitation of Minors' Addiction: Class Action Lawsuit

In a recent lawsuit filed against Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, Inc., TikTok, and Snap Inc., the tech giants stands accused of designing and operating platforms that allegedly exploit vulnerabilities in users, particularly minors, leading to addiction and various mental and physical health issues. The plaintiff alleges that these platforms, through their design and algorithms, prioritize user engagement and screen time, leading to increased advertising revenue for the defendants at the expense of user safety.

What Is Being Alleged?

The allegations include negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of express warranty, and negligent failure to recall/retrofit. These allegations stem from the defendants' alleged deceptive marketing practices, misrepresentation of the safety and benefits of their platforms, and concealment of the risks and harmful effects associated with their use.

Specifically, the plaintiff claims that the defendants have knowingly designed their platforms to be addictive, failed to implement reasonable safety measures, and failed to adequately warn users, especially minors, about the potential mental and physical health harms associated with their platforms. These harms include social media addiction, depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders, among others.

How Did the Plaintiffs Arrive at This Point?

The plaintiff's journey to the courtroom began with the addictive design of Meta's platforms. The plaintiff alleges that features such as engagement-based ranking, intermittent variable rewards, face tracking and augmentation, and endless scrollable content were incorporated into the platforms to increase user engagement and addiction. The plaintiff further alleges that these features promote harmful social comparison, leading to lower self-esteem and reduced overall mental health among users.

According to the plaintiff, the defendants' platforms also contain image-altering filters that cause body image issues and self-esteem problems. These filters, the plaintiff alleges, create a false reality where users compare their real-life appearance to the edited appearances of others, leading to dissatisfaction with one's own face and prompting self-criticism.

Who Are the Class Members?

The class members in this lawsuit are primarily minors and young adults who have used the defendants' social media platforms. The plaintiff alleges that these platforms exploit minors' diminished decision-making capacity and impulse control caused by their incomplete brain development. The plaintiff further alleges that minors' brains release dopamine when using social media, leading to addiction and downregulation of dopamine receptors.

The plaintiff claims that minors experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using social media, similar to symptoms of addictive gaming disorder. The plaintiff also alleges that the defendants target preteens despite inadequate age-verification protocols, further increasing the potential harm to minors.

What Is the Dollar Amount the Plaintiff Is Seeking?

The plaintiff is seeking compensatory, treble, and punitive damages, as well as medical monitoring and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. The exact dollar amount has not been specified, but the damages sought reflect the serious nature of the allegations and the potential harm suffered by the class members.

The plaintiff also seeks interest, costs of suit, attorneys' fees, and demands a trial by jury for all causes of action. The plaintiff argues that the statutes of limitations should be tolled due to the defendants' fraudulent concealment of the harm caused by their platforms.

What Could Be the Next Steps in the Case?

As the case progresses, the court will need to determine the validity of the plaintiff's allegations. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the defendants could be held liable for the alleged harm caused to the class members and could be ordered to pay damages. The defendants could also be required to implement changes to their platforms to address the alleged issues.

However, it's important to note that these are only allegations at this point. The defendants will have the opportunity to present their defense and challenge the plaintiff's claims. The outcome of the case will depend on the evidence presented by both sides and the court's interpretation of the law.

Case Facts

  • Status:
    Lawsuit Filed
  • Case Number:
  • Filing Date:
    June 27, 2023
  • Jurisdiction:
    Los Angeles County Superior Courts
  • State:
  • Court:
    Spring Street Courthouse
  • Plaintiff:
    N.W., a minor, by and through her guardian ad litem, Kayla Schafer
  • Defendant:
  • Plaintiff Firm:
    Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP
  • Defendant Firm:
  • Claims Administrator:
Will Gendron
Will Gendron
Editor in Chief
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