Tammy Rodriguez alleges that the platforms are to blame for her daughter, Selena, becoming hooked on Instagram and Snapchat for several years before she took her own life in 2021.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in January in San Francisco’s US District Court, claims that Meta and Snap’s products contained “defective design, negligence and unreasonable dangerous features.”
Tammy Rodriguez alleges that Selena Rodriguez suffered “severe mental harm, leading to physical injury,” from using the social media platforms.
Her family alleges that the companies failed to provide adequate safeguards from harmful and exploitative content.
“We’re suing (Meta Platforms Inc. and Snap Inc.) for designing an algorithm that is addictive to children,” lawyer Matthew Bergman, the founder of Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), told ABC News.
Court papers state that before her death from suicide, Selena had struggled for two years with addiction to Instagram and Snapchat, and was hospitalised for emergency psychiatric care to treat depression and low self-esteem.
Her family told the news network that Selena would become violent and physical when her phone was taken away, and once broke her older sister Destiny’s nose in a fight.
“We definitely started noticing that she stopped interacting with us, and she was a very recluse toward the end of everything, and she just always wanted to be on the phone,” Destiny told ABC News.
“I think she kind of grew dependent on it.”
The lawsuit also states that Selena had been solicited by male adult users for sexually exploitative content on numerous occasions.
“We are devastated to hear of Selena’s passing and our hearts go out to her family,” a SNAP spokesperson said in a statement.
“While we can’t comment on the specifics of active litigation, nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our community.”
A Meta spokesperson said that the company’s “thoughts are with the families affected by these difficult issues” but that they cold not comment on an “ongoing legal matter.”
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.