Senior thematic analyst at GlobalData Amelia Connor-Afflick has warned that social media regulation must consider the addictive design of platforms to protect users amid Meta’s legal trouble with California minors. 

The minors, alongside their parents, took legal action in March 2023 against Meta alleging that Meta knew of its deliberately addictive design of social media platforms like Instagram and refused to take action to prevent user addiction.

Because of this, the plaintiffs state that Meta’s addictive design has led many users to other mental health problems, such as eating disorders or anxiety, through their continual use of Meta’s platforms. 

The judge presiding over the case threw most of the plaintiff’s allegations towards Meta out of the courtroom, but scrutiny over Meta’s addictive platform design continues. The judge’s decision was made on 13 October.

Connor-Afflick stated that social media companies have already faced criticism that their algorithms are designed to promote toxic, harmful content to users since its divisive nature captures views and maintains users’ attention. 

“Children are most vulnerable to this material, and social media companies have sought to implement guardrails to mitigate these concerns,” she stated. 

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Social media app, Snap, parent company of photo sharing platform Snapchat, recently implemented parental controls that includes an online safety checklist for parents to discuss with children. Despite this, Snapchat has already faced criticism from UK media regulator Ofcom for its volume of underage users

The Meta lawsuit, stated Connor-Afflick, also shows that the guardians of these users are not satisfied with the current guardrails put in place by social media companies. 

“Academic research has found that social media is addictive,” Connor-Afflick explained, “Interactions can release dopamine and trigger the same feedback loop in the brain that other addictions stimulate.” 

Combined with an algorithm that potentially pushes toxic content towards users, Connor-Afflick stated that this was a dangerous mix for younger viewers to develop a dependency on these platforms. 

“These platforms bring the offline world to an online space,” she stated, “which also concentrates the issues that socialising can bring into one sphere.” 

Creating regulation that both moderates content and manages the hours spent on social media should be a top priority for regulators, but Connor-Afflick acknowledged that time should also be spent on supporting young people’s issues in the real world as well. Guardrails and safer platform design should be crucial, but that alone cannot solve the mental health issues faced by young people today.