Mark Zuckerberg Warned on Social Media Addiction as Court Filing Reveals Disregard for Harm on Young Users

Mark Zuckerberg Warned on Social Media Addiction as Court Filing Reveals Disregard for Harm on Young Users

Table of Content

In this article, we’ll examine the latest revelations about the harmful effects of social media on young people and how companies like Meta and ByteDance have allegedly ignored or undermined the information.

Key takeaways:

  • A court filing reveals that social media companies like Meta and ByteDance knew about the harmful effects of their platforms on young people, but chose not to act on the information.
  • The ongoing lawsuit alleges that social media platforms have caused mental health problems like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleeplessness, and suicide in young people.
  • The companies are accused of deliberately designing algorithms to encourage children to engage in harmful and addictive behavior.
  • The court filing also exposes that Meta defunded its mental health team instead of addressing the issue, but the company denied the claim.
  • The plaintiffs’ lawyers leading the lawsuit state that social media companies view the youth mental health crisis as a public relations issue rather than an urgent societal problem.
  • The lawsuit calls for social media companies to prioritize the well-being of young people who use their platforms and to develop strategies to protect them from the negative impacts of social media.

The Filing

According to a court filing that had previously been sealed, employees and engineers were aware of the negative impacts of their platforms on children and teenagers but chose not to act on the information. 

The filing, which was unredacted and filed in a federal court in Oakland, California, over the weekend, also revealed that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been warned about the harmful effects of social media on young people but chose to ignore the warnings.

Harmful Effects on Young People

The lawsuit is made up of numerous complaints filed throughout the US by young people who claim that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube have led to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleeplessness, and even suicide. 

The companies are being accused of deliberately creating algorithms that encourage children to engage in harmful and addictive behavior. 

Additionally, some public school districts have also filed lawsuits, arguing that they are unable to properly educate students who are struggling with mental health issues due to social media.

Young People Are More Susceptible

The social media giants have faced criticism despite invoking a 1996 law that provides them with immunity from lawsuits over harmful content posted by users. 

This criticism comes in the form of a court filing that exposes internal documents from ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. 

These documents show that the company knew that young people were more vulnerable to trying dangerous stunts seen on the platform, known as viral challenges. 

According to the filing, young people are more prone to overestimating their ability to manage risk, and their understanding of the finality of death is not yet fully developed.

Meta Defunded Mental Health Team

The court filing also reveals that rather than addressing the problems around children using Instagram and Facebook, Meta defunded its mental health team. 

However, a Meta spokesperson denied the claim, stating that the company had increased funding and had over 30 tools to support teens and families. 

According to the spokesperson, the company has hundreds of employees working to create features that promote well-being.

The Ongoing Lawsuit

The lawsuit filed in Oakland claims that more than a third of 13 to 17-year-olds report using social media apps from the defendants too frequently, leading to addiction and harmful effects on their mental health. 

The complaint accuses Meta of intentionally creating addictive social media platforms that encourage children and teenagers to consume content that can lead to sleep disorders, eating disorders, depression, and suicide.

Social Media Companies Treat Crisis in Youth Mental Health as Public Relations Issue

In November 2022, Meta made progress toward supporting teens and children on Facebook and Instagram, specifically protecting them from predators. 

The company rolled out privacy changes for all users under the age of 16, including developing tools to encourage teens to report accounts that make them uncomfortable on Facebook. 

The court document alleges that instead of addressing youth mental health issues as a critical societal problem, the companies view it as a public relations concern. 

The plaintiffs’ lawyers leading the lawsuit stated, “These never-before-seen documents show that social media companies bury internal research documenting these harms, block safety measures because they decrease ‘engagement,’ and defund teams focused on protecting youth mental health.”

Prioritizing the Well-being of Young People

To sum up, the court filing indicates that companies such as Meta and ByteDance were aware of the detrimental effects of their platforms on young people but failed to take action on this knowledge. 

The ongoing lawsuit, which has been filed across the United States on behalf of young people, asserts that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube have caused a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep deprivation, and even suicide. 

The plaintiffs argue that the companies intentionally created algorithms that led children into harmful and addictive behaviors, and that various public school districts have filed lawsuits claiming that they cannot meet their educational objectives while students are experiencing mental health crises.

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Written by

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling is a renowned financial writer with over 10 years in the finance sector. With a strong economics background, he simplifies complex financial topics for a wide audience. Alexander contributes to top financial platforms and is working on his first book to promote financial independence.

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Judith

Judith

Judith Harvey is a seasoned finance editor with over two decades of experience in the financial journalism industry. Her analytical skills and keen insight into market trends quickly made her a sought-after expert in financial reporting.