MDL Established for Social Media Addiction Lawsuits Against Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Other Platforms

The JPML ordered that all social media addiction lawsuits will be centralized in the Northern District of California for pretrial proceedings.

With a growing number of lawsuits being filed over the practices of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, SnapChat and other platforms, alleging the operators employ algorithms that promote social media addiction and increased anxiety among teens, a panel of federal judges has decided to centralize the litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

While most of the social media addiction lawsuits have been brought against Meta Platforms, Inc, which operates Facebook and Instragram, claims have also been filed against Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, YouTube LLC, Snap. Inc., TikTok Inc. and ByteDance Inc., each raising similar claims that the platforms are intentionally designed to manipulate and maximize user time and engagement, as well as the type of content they view.

The lawsuits claim these tactics cause addiction and self-destructive behavior among teens, resulting in anxiety, depression, eating disorders and psychological damage that has led to attempted or actual suicides, especially among young girls.

Each of the social media platform giants have been accused of ignoring clear evidence about the harmful consequences of their behavior, indicating that they have refused to do anything to prevent the addiction and emotional distress, since it would directly impact the profits generated.

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Following oral arguments presented on September 29, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a transfer order (PDF) on October 6, ordering that at least 80 separate lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system against the owners of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and SnapChat will be centralized as part of one single multidistrict litigation (MDL).

Snap, TikTok and YouTube all opposed including lawsuits against their companies in the same centralized proceedings that were initially sought for the Facebook and Instagram addiction lawsuits, arguing that individualized factual issues involving the different defendants and competing platforms would negate any efficiencies to be gained by centralization. However, the JPML rejected those arguments, and determined that the litigation will be most efficiently managed by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.

“On the basis of the papers filed and the hearing session held, we find that these actions involve common questions of fact” the JPML determined. “These actions present common factual questions arising from allegations that defendants’ social media platforms are defective because they are designed to maximize user screen time, which can encourage addictive behavior in adolescents. Plaintiffs allege defendants were aware, but failed to warn the public, that their platforms were harmful to minors.”

The Panel indicates the number of lawsuits against the social media platforms are growing quickly, with at least 80 cases currently filed in 30 different U.S. District Courts. However, these cases, as well as any future lawsuits will be transferred to Judge Rogers to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid contradictory pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of common witnesses, parties and the judicial system.

As part of the pretrial management, it is expected that the court will establish several “bellwether” trial tracks involving the different social media platforms, 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 social media addiction settlements are not reached to resolve the claims during the MDL proceedings, each individual lawsuit may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial.


  • MarkDecember 5, 2022 at 8:19 pm

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