Meta Platforms, Inc. and Snap, Inc. Face Lawsuit for Product Liability, Sexual Discrimination on its Platforms by Oregon Family
Complaint seeks to hold social media companies liable for not providing safe platform for teens
PORTLAND, ORE. – JANUARY 20, 2021 – Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for teenage victims suffering from depression, an eating disorder, hospitalization, sexual exploitation, self-harm or suicide as a result of social media cyberbullying, today announced it has filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc., and Snap, Inc. to hold each accountable for the harm their social media products have caused due to defective design, negligence, unreasonably dangerous features available to minors, and sexual discrimination by a place of public accommodation.
The case, which includes Meta Platform products Instagram and Facebook, and Snap’s Snapchat, centers around strict product liability and design defect by the manufacturers. Specifically, Meta Platforms and Snap failed to: provide adequate safeguards from harmful and exploitive content; verify minor users’ age and identity; adequate parental control and monitoring; protect minor users from intentionally being directed to harmful and exploitive content; offer protection for minor users from being sexually exploited and abused; design non-addictive social media products; and provide adequate notification to parents about the dangerous and problematic usage of social media by minor users.
“These social media companies are aware of the flaws and addictive properties of their platforms and have failed to adequately design their products to protect minor users from harm,” said Matthew Bergman, founder of SMVLC. “Meta Platforms and Snap must be held accountable for the inaction and deliberate addictive design of these social media platforms that prey on vulnerable children.”
This product liability action seeks to hold Snap’s and Meta Platforms’ products responsible for causing and contributing to the burgeoning mental health crisis perpetrated upon the children and teenagers in the United States by Meta Platforms and Snap. The platforms also engaged in sexual discrimination by requiring users to select a gender and use their gender to direct recommendations of accounts to follow and different and materially harmful content to female users, including content promoting unhealthy diets, fitness, and other content proven to cause body dysmorphia, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety amongst teenage users.
Case: Brittney Doffing and M.D. vs. Meta Platforms, Inc. and Snap, Inc.
M.D., the 15-year-old daughter of co-Plaintiff Brittney Doffing, was restricted from using social media until her 14th birthday. Shortly upon receiving a smart phone for her 14th birthday in March 2020, M.D. began engaging in addictive and problematic use of Instagram and Snapchat. Prior to her birthday, M.D. used a phone that did not have the ability to download social media apps, only text and make calls.
Prior to March 2020, M.D. was a good student who attended and was passing her classes. However, within two weeks of opening her Instagram and Snapchat accounts, M.D. displayed little interest in any other activities besides viewing a posting on the two applications. As a result, M.D.’s academic performance showed a marked decrease, and began getting less sleep due to her obsessive social media use and constant notifications being pushed to her phone 24 hours a day.
M.D.’s usage of Instagram and Snapchat exposed her to recommendations and content selected by the applications caused her to develop an eating disorder and engagement in periodic crash diets followed by binge eating. She was also frequently messaged and solicited for sexually exploitive content and acts by adult men through the applications, which were recorded and reported to law enforcement on multiple occasions.
M.D.’s rapid addiction to Instagram and Snapchat resulted in running away from home to use her social media, and two hospitalizations for psychiatric episodes after her mother’s attempts to take away or restrict M.D.’s usage of the applications.
Brittney Doffing understands that suing the most wealthy and powerful corporations in the world will be risky, difficult and painful and that no amount of money could ever compensate them for the phycological trauma their daughter suffered. Nevertheless, she explained: “We as parents need to do everything in our power to protect our children against danger in which ever form it appears. These social media companies need to be held responsible for exposing our children to their deadly products now so that other children won’t experience the same type of pain and suffering that my daughter experienced.”
In this case, Meta Platforms and Snap knowingly and purposefully designed, manufactured, marketed, and sold social media products that were unreasonably dangerous because they were designed to be addictive to minor users despite knowledge that the foreseeable use of these social media products causes mental and physical harm to minor users.
For anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please call 9-11 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Victims of social media cyberbullying can contact SMVLC at www.socialmediavictims.org, or by calling 1-800-834-6994.
About the Social Media Victims Law Center
The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), socialmediavictims.org, was founded in 2021 to hold social media companies legally accountable for the harm they inflict on vulnerable users. SMVLC seeks to apply principles of product liability to force social media companies to elevate consumer safety to the forefront of its economic analysis and design safer platforms to protect users from foreseeable harm.
About Matthew P. Bergman
Matthew P. Bergman is an attorney, law professor, philanthropist and community activist who has recovered over $1 billion on behalf of his clients. He is the founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center and Bergman Draper Oslund Udo law firm; a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School and serves on the board of directors of nonprofit institutions in higher education, national security, civil rights, worker protection and the arts.
If your child or young family member has suffered from serious depression, chronic eating disorder, hospitalization, sexual exploitation, self-harm, or suicide as a result of their social media use, speak to us today for a no-cost legal consultation.