Meta and Snap sued by their mother for allegedly playing a role in her daughter’s suicide

In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 (US), 686868 (Canada) or 85258 (UK). Wikipedia maintained a list of crisis lines to people outside those countries.

A Connecticut mother brought a lawsuit against the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, as well as Snap, claiming that the platforms caused the kind of addiction her late daughter suffered before taking her own life at the age of 11 in July last year.

Social media companies have been the target of various lawsuits over the years regarding allegations of harm to minors – sometimes due to failure to prevent that harm sufficiently. , as in the case of teenagers being bullied via an anonymous messaging app in Snapchat, leading to his eventual suicide. Instead, Tammy Rodriguez is making the point that the kind of “stickiness” these platforms are built with is inherently harmful, especially for younger users like her late daughter Selena. .

Selena has “struggling for over two years with extreme addiction to Instagram and Snapchat,” the lawsuit notes, a claim seemingly supported by an outpatient therapist who “never seen a patient who are addicted to social networks” during their assessment. While it’s technically too young to use either platform under their terms of service – Instagram and Snapchat say the minimum age to create their accounts is 13 – the mother points out that There are no parental controls, as well as a lack of robust age verification checks. making it nearly impossible to control her daughter’s access to services. The lawsuit states: “The only way for Tammy Rodriguez to effectively restrict access to Defendants products is to confiscate Selena’s Internet-enabled devices.” “

Rodriguez alleges that using the services caused her daughter to suffer from depression, insomnia, school absences, eating disorders, self-harm and ultimately lead to her suicide.

Rodriguez argues that Snapchat’s “undefined and variable rewards” are “like a slot machine but marketed to teen users, who are even more prone to addiction than people addicted to gambling.” Similarly, Instagram’s design decisions “seek to exploit user sensitivities to persuasive design and unlimited accumulation of unpredictable and uncertain rewards”, in the form of likes and followers. It is argued that these features are very detrimental to teenage and pre-teen users whose brains are still not fully developed, especially in the area of ​​”impulse control and risk assessment”.

The statements reflect, as well as quote from, some of the concerns voiceover of whistleblower Francis Haugen. Among the documents released by Haugen to news organizations is internal research showing that Instagram can be harmful to the health of users, especially young girls, as well as internal documents describes the loss of this group of users as an “existential threat” to the business. Instagram’s influence on children’s happiness is also the subject of a investigation by a bipartisan coalition of the Attorney General.

We’ve reached out to Snap and Meta for comment and will update if we receive a response.

Update 1/21/22 5:17 p.m. ET: A Snap spokesperson told Engadget: “We are heartbroken to learn of Selena’s passing and our hearts go out to her family. “While we cannot comment on the specifics of active litigation, nothing is more important to us than the well-being of our community.”

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