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Enfield’s mother is suing Instagram, with Snapchat claiming social media platforms are responsible for her 11-year-old daughter’s death by suicide

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An Enfield mother has sued the parent companies of Instagram and Snapchat, claiming the two popular internet platforms are responsible for the death of her 11-year-old daughter by targeting children with intentionally dangerous and addictive content.

The federal lawsuit, filed in San Francisco against Meta Platforms and Snap, claims the social media platforms operate on algorithms intentionally designed to trick children and teens. Tammy Rodriguez says her daughter became desperately addicted to social media and, in the two years leading up to her suicide in July, suffered from depression, sleep deprivation, eating disorders, self-harm and other emotional issues — all the result of about -the-clock use of Instagram and Snapchat.

The Courant does not name the child because of his age.

The lawsuit was filed on Rodriguez’s behalf by the Bay-area Social Media Victims Law Center, which bills itself as a public interest legal resource for parents of child and teenage “victims with depression, a eating disorder, hospitalization, sexual exploitation, self-harm”. or suicide as a result of cyberbullying on social media. It reflects growing concern over children’s uncontrolled use of social media and is based in part on leaked internal company documents which it says show the platforms put profitability above profit. children’s health.

“Defendants have invested billions of dollars to intentionally design their products to be addictive and to encourage use that they know to be problematic and highly detrimental to the mental health of their users,” the suit alleges. “For example, non-public internal data collected by Instagram and Snapchat reveals that many of its users, especially teenage girls, engage in problematic use of its products.”

The lawsuit claims that Rodriguez’s daughter struggled for more than two years with an extreme addiction to Instagram and Snapchat before her death. When her mother took away her electronic devices, she ran away. The child repeatedly received mental health treatment for addiction, without success, and an outpatient therapist said she had never seen a patient so addicted to social media, according to the lawsuit.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodriguez’s daughter increased the time she spent on Instagram and Snapchat, worsening her depression and inability to sleep. The result was school absences and an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Rodriguez’s daughter was solicited by adult men to post sexually exploitative content. The content sent by the child was leaked and shared with his classmates, according to the lawsuit.

Prior to her death, Rodriguez’s daughter was hospitalized for emergency psychiatric care, according to the lawsuit.

Lawsuit claims Meta Platforms and Snap failed to protect Rodriguez’s daughter from harmful and abusive content; verify the age and identity of minor users; have adequate parental control and supervision; prevent underage users from being intentionally directed to harmful and abusive content; provide protection to underage users against sexual exploitation and abuse; design non-addictive social media products; and adequately inform parents of dangerous and problematic use of social media by underage users.

“It’s not a matter 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 its products to protect underage users from abuse. damages,” said Matthew P. Bergman, one of Rodriguez’s attorneys and founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center. “Similarly, there are no guarantees in place on Snapchat. [Rodriguez’s daughter’s] suicide is a direct result of the inaction and deliberate addictive design of these social media platforms to prey on vulnerable children.

Rodriguez said through a spokesperson that she does not do interviews on the lawsuit.

A Snapchat spokesperson said: “We are devastated to learn [Rodriguez’s daughter’s] death and our thoughts are with his family. Although we cannot comment on the specifics of active litigation, nothing is more important to us than the well-being of our community.

“In fact, Snapchat helps people connect with their real friends, without some of the public pressure and social comparison features of traditional social media platforms, and intentionally makes it difficult for strangers to contact young people,” the doorstep added. -word. “We are working closely with many mental health organizations to provide integrated tools and resources to Snapchatters as part of our ongoing work to keep our community safe.”

A spokesperson for Meta was not immediately available for comment.

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