Meta and Snap are sued by mother for alleged involvement in daughter’s suicide

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 21, 2022
Updated 2022/01/21 at 11:09 PM

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

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

Social media companies have been the target of numerous lawsuits over the years related to alleged harm to minors – often for failing to adequately prevent such harm, as in the case of the teenager who was intimidated via an anonymous messaging app on Snapchat, leading to his eventual suicide. Tammy Rodriguez is arguing that the kind of “stickiness” these platforms are built to generate is inherently harmful, especially for young users like her late daughter Selena.

Selena “struggled for over two years with an extreme addiction to Instagram and Snapchat,” the lawsuit notes, a claim apparently supported by an outpatient therapist who “has never seen a patient addicted to social media” during her assessment. While technically too young to be on any platform under their terms of service — Instagram and Snapchat both claim their minimum account creation age is 13 — the mother points to the absence of parental controls, as well as the lack of security checks. age verification, which made it nearly impossible to police her daughter’s access to services. “The only way for Tammy Rodriguez to effectively limit access to Defendants’ products would be to physically confiscate Selena’s internet-enabled devices,” the lawsuit states, “which simply caused Selena to flee to access her social media accounts on other devices.” . .”

Using the services, Rodriguez alleges, caused his daughter to suffer from depression, sleep deprivation, school absences, eating disorders, self-harm, and led to her suicide.

Rodriguez argues that Snapchat’s “unknown and shifting rewards” are “similar to a slot machine, but marketed to teenage users who are even more susceptible than gambling addicts.” Likewise, Instagram’s design decisions “aim to explore users’ susceptibility to persuasive design and the unlimited accumulation of unpredictable and uncertain rewards” in the form of likes and followers. These features, it is argued, are highly detrimental to teen and pre-teen users whose brains are not yet fully developed, particularly in the areas of “impulse control and risk assessment”.

The claim reflects, as well as cites, some of the concerns dubbed by whistleblower Francis Haugen. Among the share of documents released to news organizations by Haugen were internal research showing that Instagram can be detrimental to the well-being of users, especially girls, as well as internal documents describing the loss of this group of users as an “existential threat.” ” to the business. The effects of Instagram on children’s well-being is also the subject of a investigation by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general.

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

Update 01/21/22 17:17 ET: “We are devastated to hear of Selena’s passing and our hearts go out to her family,” a Snap spokesperson told Ploonge. “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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