Meta, Snap Sued by Mother of Wisconsin Teen for His Suicide

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(Bloomberg) -- Meta Platforms Inc. and Snap Inc. were sued over a teenager’s suicide in the latest effort by an advocacy group to hold the social media giants responsible for addiction to their platforms.

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Christopher James Dawley, who went by CJ, was a college-bound honors student who played sports and enjoyed outdoor activities, but he got so deeply drawn into social media that he was frequently communicating on Instagram at 3 a.m., according to a lawsuit filed Monday by his mother in Wisconsin federal court.

“CJ never showed outward signs of depression or mental injury but became addicted to defendants’ social media products, progressively sleep deprived, and increasingly obsessed with his body image,” his mother, Donna Dawley, said in her complaint.

In January 2014, while CJ’s family was cleaning Christmas decorations and about a month before his 17th birthday, he posted “Who turned out the light?” on his Facebook page, held a 22-caliber rifle in one hand, his smart phone in the other, and shot himself to death, the court filing shows.

Like previous cases led by Seattle-based Social Media Victims Law Center, the suit alleges that Meta deliberately designed algorithms that keep teens hooked onto their platforms to promote excessive use that they know is indicative of addictive and self-destructive use.

“Neither Meta or Snap warned users or their parents of the addictive and mentally harmful effects that the use of their products was known to cause amongst minor users,” Donna Dawley alleged in her complaint.

Read More: Meta, Snap Sued Over Social Media ‘Addicted’ Girl’s Suicide

Meta said in an email that the company recently introduced its Family Center, its first step in offering supervision tools for parents and guardians.

Instagram allows them to see how much time teens spend on the app and set time limits, get notified when their teen reports to Meta that a contact has made a post about suicide, and get updates about what accounts their children are following and are being followed by, Meta said.

Meta also said that for teens in particular, it sends “Take A Break” reminder that also nudges them towards different topics if they’ve dwelled on one subject for a long time, among other features.

The case is Dawley v. Meta Platforms Inc., 22-cv-00444, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin.

(Updates with response from Meta.)

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