Thirty-three states, including California and New York, are suing Meta Platforms Inc. for allegedly harming young people by designing features on Facebook and Instagram that addict children to the social media platforms.
As reported by the Associated Press, “A lawsuit filed by 33 states in federal court in California, claims that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law. In addition, 9 attorneys general are filing lawsuits in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 41 and Washington, D.C.”
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” reads the complaint. “Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its social media platforms. It has concealed the ways in which these platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children.”
The suit seeks financial restitution and to put an end to Meta's allegedly illegal actions.
Meta Says It Is Committed to Providing Teens “Safe, Positive Experiences Online”
“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” says New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement. “Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”
Meta, which owns and operates Facebook and Instagram, says in a statement that it shares “the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families. We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path.”
The Associated Press reports, “The broad-ranging federal suit is the result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont. It follows damning newspaper reports, first by The Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2021, based on the Meta’s own research that found that the company knew about the harms Instagram can cause teenagers — especially teen girls — when it comes to mental health and body image issues. One internal study cited 13.5% of teen girls saying Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls saying it makes eating disorders worse.”
Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb wouldn't comment on whether or not the attorneys are also looking at TikTok and Snapchat. For now the focus is on the Meta properties Facebook and Instagram. Schwalb says, “They’re the worst of the worst when it comes to using technology to addict teenagers to social media, all in the furtherance of putting profits over people.”