Complaints seek to hold social media companies liable for unreasonably dangerous platforms
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for parents of 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 wrongful death lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc., and Snap, Inc. to hold each accountable in the death of 11-year-old Selena Rodriguez of Enfield, Conn., on July 21, 2021 by suicide caused by the defective design, negligence and unreasonably dangerous features of their products.
Specifically, the suit alleges that 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.
“This isn’t a question of opinion. Internal documents and testimony before Congress by a former employee reveal that Meta Platforms was fully aware of the flaws and addictive properties of its social media platforms and failed to adequately design their products to protect minor users from harm,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founder of SMVLC. “Similarly, no safeguards are in place on Snapchat. Selena’s suicide is a direct result of the inaction and deliberate addictive design of these social media platforms to prey on vulnerable children. Meta Platforms and Snap must be held accountable for the role their products played in the loss of human life to prevent future suicides and self-harm to their other teen users.”
Details of the Case
Selena Rodriguez struggled for more than two years with an extreme addiction to Instagram and Snapchat before taking her own life at 11-years-old. Her mother, Tammy, confiscated all electronic devices from her possession, which led to Selena running away to use social media. On multiple occasions, Selena received mental health treatment for her addiction. One outpatient therapist who evaluated Selena remarked that she had never seen a patient as addicted to social media as Selena.
In the months leading up to Selena’s suicide, she experienced severe sleep deprivation that was caused and aggravated by her addiction to Instagram and Snapchat, and the constant 24-hour stream of notifications and alerts received. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Selena spent even more time on Instagram and Snapchat, which only worsened her depression and level of sleep deprivation. This addiction resulted in multiple absences from school and a subsequent investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
While on Instagram and Snapchat, Selena was constantly solicited for sexually exploitive content. She succumbed to the pressure and sent sexually explicit images using Snapchat, which were leaked and shared with her classmates, increasing the ridicule and embarrassment she experienced at school.
As a result, Selena was hospitalized for emergency psychiatric care and experienced worsening depression, poor self-esteem, eating disorders, self-harm, and ultimately, suicide.
According to the lawsuit, 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), www.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.
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