Legal Battle Looms as Social Media Addiction Lawsuits Target Big Tech Companies for Harm to Teens

San Francisco, California – A wave of lawsuits is hitting social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, accusing them of intentionally designing algorithms that encourage addiction among young users. These lawsuits, filed by national mass tort lawyers, are seeking compensation for individuals who became addicted to social media before the age of 21 and suffered physical injuries as a result, including eating disorders, depression, and even suicide.

The litigation is pushing for a class action MDL (Multidistrict Litigation) to address the widespread issue of social media addiction among children and young adults. The plaintiffs argue that these platforms knowingly designed their products to maximize screen time and engagement, using complex algorithms that exploit human psychology. As a result, young users are constantly exposed to content that is difficult to resist, leading to addiction and harmful consequences.

In response, social media companies have faced scrutiny and criticism for their role in promoting addictive behavior. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently expressed regret during a Senate hearing, acknowledging the hardships caused by Facebook and emphasizing the company’s commitment to preventing such incidents in the future. However, the plaintiffs and defendants have differing views on the pace at which these lawsuits should proceed.

The plaintiffs are seeking a bellwether order, a procedure to select specific trials that represent the larger group of cases. They are prepared to submit a proposed order by March 1, 2024, while the defendants argue that it is too soon to set a deadline and are waiting for more data before making any selections. Ultimately, Judge Gonzalez Rogers will determine the path forward and aims to move the cases quickly, with a trial scheduled for 2025.

Scientific research supports the claims made by the plaintiffs, stating that teenage brains are vulnerable to the addictive nature of social media. Algorithms used by these platforms exploit the lack of fully developed impulse control and emotional regulation in adolescents, leading to harmful behaviors and mental health issues. Studies have found a clear correlation between excessive social media use and depression, self-harm, and even suicidal ideation among adolescents.

While the social media companies argue for legal immunity under Section 230, which protects them from liability for user-generated content, the addiction lawsuits focus on the harm caused by the platforms’ own technology and algorithms. These cases present novel challenges, particularly in proving causation and establishing the extent of the platforms’ responsibility for the physical and emotional injuries suffered by young users.

Although it is still too early to determine the potential settlement value of these lawsuits, those involving severe injuries such as suicide may have high settlement values, ranging from $1.5 to $5 million. However, the success of these lawsuits remains uncertain, and the plaintiffs will face an uphill battle in proving their claims.

As the litigation proceeds, the impact of social media addiction on young people continues to be a cause for concern. The addictive nature of these platforms, combined with their widespread use among teenagers, highlights the need for stricter regulation and safeguards to protect vulnerable users. The outcome of these lawsuits could have significant implications for the future of social media and its effect on mental health.