Lawsuit Against Meta Accuses Instagram of Causing Girl’s Mental Health Problems
According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on June 6, 2022, Meta is responsible for one girl’s addictive use of Instagram. According to a report on Yahoo.com, the addiction led to a severe eating disorder, suicidal ideations, and self-harm.
Meta is the parent company of Instagram and leaked reports last year indicate the company knew that it’s AI technology was contributing to mental health issues. These reports, called the “Facebook Papers,” are the basis of many of the lawsuit’s allegations.
The Social Media Victims Law Center filed the complaint. Based in Seattle, WA, this organization advocates for victims and families injured by online activity. In this case, the victim is Alexis Spence, who is now 19.
What Did Instagram Allegedly do to Alexis Spence?
According to the lawsuit, Spence was formerly “confident and happy.” At age 11, however, she was able to create an Instagram account without her parents’ permission. Shortly after that, she began to change.
Setting up her account was easy, although the minimum age requirement for an Instagram account is 13.
According to the complaint, Instagram’s AI almost immediately steered Spence into content “glorifying” anorexia and self-harm and “systematically fostered addiction to using the app.”
Spence said that at the height of her addiction, she had multiple accounts she would hide from her concerned parents and be bombarded by curated content that hammered her with images about being skinny, cutting herself and the benefits of an eating disorder.
Allegedly, one of Instagram’s “suggested” accounts for Spence included one with instructions on how to be bulimic and many with images of “emaciated” girls.
By the time Spence was 15, she was getting emergency psychiatric treatment. She suffered from an eating disorder, suicidal ideations, and trauma.
She has been hospitalized at times for anxiety and depression, and anorexia.
What Are the Allegations Against Meta?
The lawsuit against Meta claims that Spence’s mental health struggles and her ongoing fight to get healthy are the direct result of “the harmful content and features Instagram relentlessly promoted and provided to her in its effort to increase engagement.”
In the complaint, statements allege that the Facebook Papers and other documents demonstrate that Meta knew it was encouraging the use of Instagram by underage children. The complaint also alleges that Meta knew it was creating body image problems and other mental health issues for users, especially teenage girls.
The suit also alleges that the design of Instagram encourages addiction to the app. The complaint further claims that Spence displayed uncharacteristic behavior directly related to her addiction and that the addiction resulted from Instagram’s intentional design.
What Does Research Say About Instagram?
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut addressed Congress on some of Instagram’s alleged dangers.
“Our research has shown, in real time, Instagram’s recommendations will still latch on to a person’s insecurities, a young woman’s vulnerabilities about their bodies and drag them into dark places that glorify eating disorders and self-harm.”
Meta’s own studies concluded that Instagram does, in fact, cause harm to teenage girls. In the Facebook Papers, Meta allegedly concluded that:
- Instagram makes 1 in every 3 female teenage users feel worse about their bodies
- The app is designed to be addictive
- It algorithmically drives vulnerable users toward content that is pro-eating-disorder
Meta might be liable for the injuries Spence has been struggling with for nearly a decade. We will have to wait and see how the lawsuit progresses. Will Meta owe Spence compensation?
Call Alonso Krangle, LLP if You Suffered Injuries From Social Media
Alonso Krangle, LLP is a full-service personal injury law firm devoted to helping injured victims collect compensation when someone else causes them harm. For a free consultation, call us today at 800-403-6191 and find out if you are eligible to file an injury lawsuit.