Are Social Media Platforms Responsible for Kids’ Deaths?

Are you still thinking about Joe Camel?

The 1980s and the 1990s, Joe was a cartoon character for Camel cigarettes. The smiling face of Joe was seen in billboards, billboards, and advertisements all over the world. It is likely that he enjoyed the same the fame and attention like Tony the Tiger or Ronald McDonald.

However, today we think of Joe and not only as a cute image, but rather as the emblem of a sinister business scheme that aims to lure youngsters to smoke Camel cigarettes. The parent company of Camel put Joe on the back burner in 1997, after documents were discovered which showed that the firm had engaged Joe as a key figure in an advertising campaign that targeted children to be future tobacco smoking.

Companies on social media don’t try to persuade kids to buy dangerous products such as cigarettes. Yet, some critics believe they’re nonetheless targeting kids and encouraging children to take part in dangerous activities, including suicide.

The first cases of wrongful death against the social media firms are forming as federal and legislators in the state are looking at further measures to force social media companies to ensure the safety of children.

Recent Events

Legal pressure started to build in October of last year after Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook and Facebook, testified before an U.S. Senate subcommittee that Facebook had knowingly used harmful algorithms.

Social media platforms employ algorithms to gauge users’ preferences and direct them towards information that could be able to keep them engaged – and so they are exposed to more advertisements. The testimony of Haugen was is focused on Instagram the platform that is popular among teens and operated by the parent company Facebook, Meta. The company leaked several of its research on the subject such as surveys that revealed:

  • 13.5 percent of women in the United Kingdom said they felt suicidal following the introduction of Instagram.
  • 17% of teenagers admitted that their eating issues became worse following the introduction of Instagram.
  • 32% of teens stated that when they felt unsatisfied feelings about their body, Instagram made them feel more miserable.

The lawmakers on both side of the aisle in Washington have been urging to dismantle Big Tech and they latched to the testimony of Haugen as evidence that they needed to act. But the problem is that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act generally protects the companies who operate social media from having to defend themselves against lawsuits based on posts made by users.

However, what are those algorithms?

According to Seattle attorney Matthew Bergman, the revelations concerning algorithms opened the doors to lawsuits. According to him, the possibility of suing social media companies can be a possibility based on the old products liability laws, and specifically the design defect. The algorithms were developed to make users addicted, despite the realization that the consumption of social networks can result in physical and mental harm to children.

Bergeman founded his Social Victims Media Law Center in November 2021 . It currently has 20 families represented who have brought wrongful death lawsuits against companies that use social media.

Researchers have discovered that the chance of suicide for adolescents increases when they are spending more time on the internet. In general, suicide rates among those aged between 10 and 24 years are increasing each year from 2007, and they have increased during the outbreak.

“Challenges” on TikTok’s dangerous ‘Challen

Legal action against the companies behind social media platforms has been gaining momentum on a different side. Plaintiffs have filed wrongful-death suit claiming algorithms are encouraging youngsters to take part with dangerous behaviors.

The 10th of December in the year 2010 saw Nylah Anderson from Chester, Pennsylvania, died during an “Blackout Challenge” in TikTok the app that allows video sharing. The “challenges” are the norm for TikTok users. The most popular was the “Fire Challenge” the participants doused objects with a liquid that was flammable that ignited it. In the next challenge, there was”the “Milk Crate Challenge” which saw people stacking milk crates before walking across the top of them.

“Blackout Challenge. “Blackout Challenge” made viewers choke on household items until they fell asleep. After they recover consciousness, they broadcast their experiences with fellow TikTok users.

But, not everyone regains consciousness. The day after Nylah’s death, her mom, Tawainna, filed a lawsuit for wrongful deaths against TikTok as well as the parent company of TikTok, ByteDance, in federal court. The complaint asserts that at the very least, four people been killed by The Blackout Challenge.

Attorneys General and Legislators Get Aim

Eight attorneys general have recently initiated an investigation of the impact of TikTok on children. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said the group is concerned by “reckless threats to the internet’s security” and plans to examine “what TikTok knew about the dangers to children as well as what exactly they’ve taken to protect our children online.”

As of now, California legislators are considering the possibility of a law that will allow parents to pursue social media companies when they put children at risk by using the features that can be addictive for youngsters. The supporters of the bill argue that the bill circumvents Section 230 prohibition by narrowly looking at whether apps are making use of addictive algorithms, and not in general the content.

Parents should pay attention

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you must take note of the potential dangers that social media can pose for the age group they belong to. Making yourself aware of the various apps and platforms is an excellent starting point.

There are other things to consider:

  • Make rules and guidelines however, be careful not to be too rigid.
  • Engage in a conversation with your child on their use of social media. Make sure they inform your child if they receive messages from unknown people or receive friend request. Inform them of how to avoid the risks of using social media.
  • Check to ensure that the user isn’t sharing any information about themselves online.
  • Beware of allowing them to share pictures or videos that might risk their safety.

In the event of the death or injury of a person, bear an eye on the legal limitations on responsibility for social media are changing. Inquiring with an experienced lawyer for personal injuries in your area could be the best option.

There is no need to resolve this on your own – Seek the help of a lawyer

An appointment with a lawyer will assist you in understanding your rights and the best way to defend your rights. Browse our lawyer directory to locate a lawyer close to your home who will be able to assist.