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Woman files suit alleging Instagram addiction caused depression, eating disorder

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A Virginia woman has filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook. Court records allege that Meta deliberately released products that were flawed in design and “addictive, harmful, and sometimes fatal to children.”

In a civil lawsuit filed in San Mateo County on Sept. 4, Laura Ashman, 21, of Fredricksburg, Virginia, became obsessed with Instagram when she was 12 and spends up to 10 hours per day scrolling through the site. said it does. Her use of it caused her to develop severe eating disorders and depression.

Court documents show that when Ashman was in eighth grade, she began a series of self-harming acts that forced her to be hospitalized multiple times during her teenage years, including three months of residential treatment and various partial-inpatient treatment programs. it was done.

According to the complaint, Ashman seeks punitive damages to prevent future negligence from the platform, as well as unspecified compensatory damages for physical and emotional distress from her Instagram addiction.

The lawsuit comes just weeks after another lawsuit was filed in federal district court in San Francisco on August 26, accusing Meta Inc.’s platform and Snapchat of designing a defective and dangerous product. Child predators recruit unsuspecting child users, according to court records.

One of Ashman’s attorneys in the case, Previn Warren, argued that the addictiveness of Instagram’s product design was creating a public health crisis.

Pointing to leaked research on the specific algorithms used in the app and the meta related to their impact, Warren said, “Teenagers and pre-teens across the country are seriously affected by their addiction to Instagram. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the structure of the product. It’s the algorithm and the product designer’s knowledge that the algorithm is addictive.”

According to the complaint, Ashman’s attorneys, including citing internal Meta presentations from 2019 and 2020, concluded that the company’s products “exacerbate body image problems in 1 in 3 teenage girls.” attached.

Warren said he attended Harvard at the same time as Meta co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but when Zuckerberg introduced Facebook’s predecessor, Facemash, fellow students I remembered the first upset I felt at school. Compare photos and rank schoolgirls by looks.

“This is not something I read in an article somewhere. I lived it,” he said. “The self-esteem and mental health of others is something Mark Zuckerberg has treated as collateral damage throughout his career.”

Meta Inc. was not reached for comment Thursday night.

Joel Umanzor (he/he) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]


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