In the past two decades, social media has transformed human interaction. From Grandma catching up with old friends on Facebook to the disappearing messages on Snapchat or the popularity of short video trends on TikTok, there is a social media app for everything and everyone.
While social media can do a lot of good, such as helping people keep up with far-flung friends and loved ones or connecting people around the world through a shared interest, it also comes with plenty of drawbacks.
In fact, there is a seriously dark side to social media, and several social media class-action lawsuits have been filed in recent years. When you partner with the legal team at Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, you can work with a lawyer to seek compensation when social media causes significant harm.
If you or your family have been harmed in any of the ways listed below, call our firm immediately for a consultation to see if your case is eligible to be added to social media multi-district litigation (MDL) suits.
Twenty years ago, in 2003, MySpace debuted and the age of social media was born. In the intervening years, as technology has become smaller and more portable, the use of social media among teenagers has skyrocketed. This has changed not only the way teens communicate with one another but also how they view themselves.
SmartSocial.org has compiled the following statistics:
The negative impacts of social media use do not end with teens not spending more time with their friends and family. Other statistics from SmartSocial.org reveal:
Teen users of social media have reported feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, and worse about themselves after using social media.
According to SmartSocial.org, 48 percent of parents report feeling worried about their teen’s use of Instagram, and 39 percent worry about their teen’s Facebook activity. Recent research gives objective evidence supporting these parents’ concerns.
In 2019, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry (Journal of the American Medical Association) showed that teens who consumed more than three hours of social media content per day were more prone to suffering from adverse mental health consequences.
Notably, the study suggested more than three hours of social media use led to an increase in depression, anxiety, and aggressive behavior among teens.
A 2021 study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence showed a connection between social media use and young girls’ risk of suicide. According to the study, girls who were thirteen years of age or older and who used social media for at least two hours per day had a notable increase in their risk of committing suicide as adults.
The algorithms used by social media platforms like Facebook are designed to promote content that connects with young users and engages them for hours at a time.
Content is shown based on the user’s likes and interests, and the stream of such content has no end. Teens find it difficult to limit their time in front of the screen and to detach themselves from their social media accounts.
While social media companies make money from advertising and user engagement, the mental health of consumers, especially younger consumers, suffers. It seems that social media companies like Meta view this as an acceptable tradeoff, given that so little has been done to address the harm done by social media addiction.
Several of the biggest social media platforms have been named defendants in social media lawsuits.
The charges range from knowingly promoting unhealthy behavior — like eating disorders or dangerous consumption of drugs, alcohol, and other substances — to acting as a vehicle for online bullying (resulting in the self-harm of the victim) or even sex trafficking on social media.
Social media law is relatively new, but there are a growing number of individuals who serve as lawyers for social media harassment focusing on protecting victims of online attacks.
The social media entity known now as Meta owns the sites Facebook and Instagram, two of the four most commonly used social media platforms. Instagram, in particular, is the third most popular social media platform among younger people, with nearly 25% stating that it’s their most important social network.
Most cases against the parent company of Meta include damages victims suffered via Instagram.
All of the lawsuits have similar facts and contend that Meta was responsible for allowing users to be harmed and has liability for the harm experienced by users and their surviving families.
The social media lawyers representing the plaintiffs, like our team at Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, point out that Meta products are defective by design and are marketed without proper instruction or warnings about the potential for addiction or vulnerability to sexually explicit content.
Furthermore, Meta is responsible for marketing harmful products to young people without conducting adequate research on the effects of the product or warning the public about possible problems.
A panel of district judges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California centralized the litigation against Meta, Snap Inc., YouTube, TikTok, and YouTube to coordinate pretrial proceedings and discovery.
These suits each alleged that the social media companies knowingly released products that encouraged social media addiction and increased anxiety in teenage users.
Lawyers for social media representing victims across the county claim that the following social media platforms intentionally target teens, especially young women, for the type of content they view:
These algorithms are also designed to maximize user time and engagement with the content, resulting in social media addiction. The consequences of social media addiction include self-destructive behavior like:
Each of the named social media companies has been accused of overlooking clear evidence about the harm young users experience — the companies should have noted the consequences of their behavior and defective products, but they failed to address the problem or correct their behavior.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) listened to oral arguments on September 29, 2022, and then issued a transfer order on October 6 to centralize the 80+ lawsuits against social media corporations in the federal courts. This action created a single MDL, of which our law firm is a participating litigator.
However, the named social media companies are contesting the merger. YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok are arguing against being included in the lawsuits against Meta, stating that the individual factual issues between Meta’s cases and theirs differ.
The JPML rejected this argument and determined that all litigation for the federal suits would be under the supervision of U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.
The 80 current cases, filed in 30 separate U.S. District Courts, are all being transferred to Justice Rogers to reduce duplicate discovery and pre-trial rulings to set consistent decisions.
Because social media law is such a new form of law, extra care must be taken to evaluate the use of social media against current laws regarding consumer product use, warnings, and free expression. Any future suits will be added to the MDL.
Social media addiction leading to psychological distress and exacerbated emotional illness isn’t the only contention against social media corporations. Social media and sex trafficking are another growing concern.
An investigation performed by another law firm revealed that social media companies, including TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, OnlyFans, Craigslist, and Backpage, knowingly permit — or refrain from prohibiting — and financially benefit from sexual abuse.
These human sex trafficking and social media reports indicate that requests to remove posts advertising for trafficked humans or sexual solicitation are ignored. Furthermore, some sites may have pornographic images of children or other vulnerable persons posted for users to engage with.
Excessive social media use and consumption can lead to mental health difficulties for your child. Your own overuse of social media during childhood and adolescence can fuel depression, anxiety, and other concerns well into adulthood.
Social media companies knowingly put your mental well-being and that of your teen at risk in the name of greater profits. If your minor child suffered physical harm as a result of their social media use, your family may have legal rights.
Additionally, if you or your child have been bullied, threatened, harassed, or exposed to sexual abuse or sexually explicit material on a social media site, and suffered mental or physical harm as a result, we can help.
At Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, our lawyers for social media can determine whether you, your family member, or your child qualify to participate in the class action MDL suit. If so, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm you or your teen suffered.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
At Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, P.C., we handle all Social Media Addiction & Sexual Abuse cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not get paid unless and until you receive a settlement or a jury award.
Social media addiction works like any other type of addiction: users engage with content, look at pictures, or receive likes and praise for their own posts and content, which produces dopamine (the pleasure hormone) in the brain.
Users become dependent on social media interactions to provide a dopamine high and can suffer psychological withdrawal effects similar to those drug and alcohol addicts suffer when they are cut off from social media.
Tolerance of social media interaction leads to dependence on social media, just like one would become addicted to alcohol, cocaine, or heroin. Teens, in particular, are especially vulnerable to harm from the overuse of social media, striving to attain unrealistic life and beauty goals.
Social media companies deliberately construct their programming to increase user interaction with algorithms that promote addiction. These companies understand the effects of the overuse of social media and may even know that addicted users suffer harm like sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression.
Social media companies should have safeguards in place for minor users, such as restricting engagement time and having parental controls to report the minor’s screen time to a designated guardian. But these companies have not provided adequate warnings about the risks of social media overuse and known dangers on their sites.
Like other sites, including Meta, Snapchat has failed to restrict the use of its platform for sexual predators and other risky individuals. Often, minors are targeted by legal adult predators posing as fellow teens or “catfishing.” They offer money, gift cards, or other incentives for the teen to engage in sexual behavior.
Minors are not protected against sexual predators, and the reporting of such users is alleged to be insufficient to provide protection. Furthermore, many websites like Snapchat may have profited from users who use the sites specifically to lure in minors or other vulnerable users for sex trafficking.
It’s not that simple. The effects of social media addiction are very real, and many people may require therapy, like CBT or group therapy, or psychiatric medication for anxiety and depression in order to recover.
Many parents find their teen acting enraged when their social media time is limited. Or, like a drug or alcohol addict, a social media addict may sneak around to access their preferred site.