Accessibility links

Breaking News

"Instagram Causes Eating Disorders": Lawsuits

FILE: Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta is seen on smartpone in front of displayed logo of Facebook, Messenger, Intagram, Whatsapp and Oculus in this illustration picture. Taken 10.28.2021

Facebook-owner Meta Platforms Inc was hit with two new lawsuits Monday accusing it of fueling eating disorders and other mental health problems in teenage users of its Instagram photo sharing service, the latest in a string of lawsuits linking social media to mental health problems in children.

Two families, both represented by Laura Marquez-Garrett of the Social Media Victims Law Center, filed their lawsuits in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuits alleged that Instagram caused the girls to become addicted to the service and to develop depression, anxiety and anorexia.

Both girls attempted suicide and were hospitalized multiple times, according to the lawsuits. One of them had to have a feeding tube at times because she would not eat.

Their lawyers said Meta knew that some people became addicted to the service, and that teenagers were especially vulnerable. They also said that the company failed to verify users' ages, allowing both plaintiffs to join when they were only 12 despite a nominal minimum age of 13, and failed to shield minors from sexual messages.

Both lawsuits also alleged that the algorithm recommended "'friends' who were, in fact, adult Instagram users either suffering from these mental health issues themselves or using the Instagram product to find and exploit young girls."

At least nine other lawsuits have been filed against Meta alleging harm to minors' mental health, including one accusing the company of contributing to an 11-year-old girl's suicide. So far, all are in their early stages.

In February, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Cynthia Lummis, a Republican, introduced a bill aimed at addressing social media addiction. The bill calls for the National Science Foundation and National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to study potential measures social media companies could take to discourage addiction, and empower the Federal Trade Commission to pass rules requiring them.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.