Instagram faces more accusations that it’s ‘addictive’ and ‘harmful’

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Two new lawsuits have been filed against Instagram’s parent company Meta, alleging that the service harms mental health, especially among teenagers and children.

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Meta has been facing more pressure to address this issue after a Facebook whistleblower leaked an internal survey about the company.

If you are struggling with negative thoughts or suicidal feelings, there are resources available to help. In the USA, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; in the UK, call the Samaritans on 116 123; and in Australia, call Lifeline at 13 11 14. In addition, you can find help at these 13 suicide and crisis intervention hotlines.

Instagram, a photo and video sharing app owned by Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is facing more allegations that its platform causes harmful mental health effects, including depression, eating disorders and suicide attempts.

Two Kentucky families, represented by the Social Media Victims Law Center, filed a pair of lawsuits Monday against Meta in federal court in Northern California. Both lawsuits accuse the social media giant of prioritizing user engagement over safety and creating a “perfect storm of addiction, social comparison, and exposure to incredibly harmful product content and features.”

“Despite knowledge of the dangerous and harmful characteristics of its product, Meta has made and continues to make cost-effective, calculated business decisions and is consistently prioritizing its already astronomical profits over human life,” the lawsuits say.

The lawsuits are the latest complaints against Instagram after Frances Haugen, a Facebook product manager turned whistleblower, leaked internal research, including into the harmful impacts the app could have on teenage girls. The actions cite some of these documents.

Meta declined to provide a statement on the process, but pointed to steps taken to address mental health issues, including sharing resources for people with eating disorders. Last year, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri witnessed before Congress for the first time on the subject and said he was committed to keeping users safe. The company launched new parental controls in March, started testing different types of foodincluding a chronological one, and introduced a new way of checking that users are at least 13 years old.

All of these steps haven’t placated Instagram critics, who say the platform isn’t doing enough to combat any potentially harmful mental health impacts. Both lawsuits allege that Meta engaged in fraudulent business practices, accusing the company of lying to Congress and the public about the harmful effects of its products. Instagram exposed two of the plaintiffs, who were 12 when they joined the app, to eating disorder content and made them think they weren’t good enough, according to the lawsuits. Both girls attempted suicide, and one had to use a feeding tube because she kept refusing to eat while she was hospitalized.

Reuters, which previously reported on the lawsuits, said Meta faces at least nine other lawsuits accusing the company of harming the mental health of minors.

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