MDL Sought for Lawsuits Against Facebook, Instagram Over Addictive Qualities and Harmful Effect on Young Girls
With a growing number young women filing Facebook and Instagram lawsuits against Meta Platforms, Inc., alleging that the social media platforms fostered addiction and mental health problems, a panel of federal judges has been asked to consolidate and centralize the litigation before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Meta currently faces nearly 30 lawsuits brought in different U.S. District Courts, each raising similar allegations that the company was aware the Facebook and Instagram social media platforms harmed users by creating addiction and resulting in anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideations, especially among young women.
Plaintiffs say the company failed to do anything to prevent them, due to their desire to increase use of the platforms, which generate substantial ad revenue and profits.
Most of the lawsuits involve the impact of Facebook and Instagram on adolescent females, who are particularly vulnerable to social media addiction due to the tactics the platforms use to promote themselves and influencers, the lawsuits state.
Facebook and Instagram rank among the most popular social networking platforms in the world, with collectively more than two billion users worldwide. Some estimates indicate 90% of teens use social media platforms for an average of three hours per day.
The lawsuits claim Meta, the parent company of both Facebook and Instagram, uses algorithms that are designed to physiologically trap children in order to maximize the length of time they spend on the platforms and the amount of content they view.
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One plaintiff, Brianna Murden, filed a motion for transfer (PDF) with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on August 1, asking that 28 different lawsuits currently pending in the federal court system be consolidated for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
“Defendants failed to warn minor users and their parents about risks posed by the products; and the Facebook and Instagram products contained manufacturing defects as developed by Defendants,” the motion states. “The factual allegations regarding Defendants’ conduct in the complaints are substantially the same: Defendants’ social media products are intentionally designed to be addictive and utilize sophisticated algorithms to manipulate and maximize user time and engagement.”
Consolidating the cases as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) would prevent duplicative discovery and contradictory rulings, and provide convenience to the Court, parties and witnesses, according to the motion.
While each lawsuit would remain an individual case, if consolidation is granted, the Court would likely schedule a series of early “bellwether” trials to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if the cases are not resolved during the MDL proceedings, either through a Facebook and Instagram addiction settlement agreement or ruling, the cases may then be transferred back to their originating court for trial.
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