In a significant legal development, 41 US states, along with Washington, D.C., have filed a lawsuit against Meta, accusing the social media giant of intentionally designing its platforms to be addictive to children. The lawsuit alleges that Meta’s actions have had a detrimental impact on the mental health of young users.
The lawsuit, which stems from an investigation conducted by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, claims that Meta violated federal law by collecting data on children aged 13 and under without parental consent. Although Meta prohibits children under 13 from joining its social media platforms, the lawsuit asserts that many kids have found ways to bypass this restriction, both with and without parental consent. Additionally, the lawsuit highlights Meta’s alleged awareness of the negative effects Instagram has on teenagers, particularly teenage girls and their body image, citing the company’s own research.
The states involved in the lawsuit are seeking financial damages and restitution, as well as demanding that Meta change its policies to comply with the law. The complaint filed against Meta accuses the company of prioritizing profit over the well-being of its most vulnerable consumers, namely teenagers and children. It alleges that Meta has concealed the exploitative and manipulative nature of its platforms, which have ensnared youth and teens in addictive behaviors.
New York Attorney General Letitia James blamed Meta and similar social media companies for the alarming levels of poor mental health among children and teenagers. She accused Meta of intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that foster addiction and lower self-esteem in young users. California Attorney General Rob Bonta echoed these sentiments, stating that Meta has been profiting from the pain of children and teens and that the lawsuit draws a line against such practices. Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb added that Meta is among the worst offenders when it comes to using technology to addict teenagers to social media, prioritizing profits over people.
In response to the lawsuit, Meta issued a statement expressing its commitment to providing safe and positive experiences for teens online. The company claimed to have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families. Meta expressed disappointment in the attorneys general for not working collaboratively with industry companies to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the apps used by teenagers.
This lawsuit against Meta highlights the growing concerns surrounding the impact of social media on the mental health and well-being of young users. It serves as a reminder of the need for responsible and ethical practices within the tech industry, particularly when it comes to protecting vulnerable populations such as children and teenagers.