More than 40 states filed lawsuits against tech giant Meta, alleging the company’s social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, contribute to harms against children and teenagers.
Attorneys general from dozens of states filed federal lawsuits Tuesday, accusing Meta of engineering features that intentionally turn kids into social media addicts.
Another 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,” the Associated Press reports.
Breaking News: Dozens of states sued Meta, accusing the parent company of Facebook and Instagram of knowingly using features to hook children to its platforms, saying its algorithms were designed to push children and teens into toxic and harmful content. https://t.co/hsOOuyvldZ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 24, 2023
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. 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,” the complaint says, according to AP.
“It has concealed the ways in which these platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children,” it added.
The suits seek financial damages and restitution and an end to Meta’s practices that are in violation of the law.
“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” said 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.”
In a statement, Meta said 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 company added.
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.
A bipartisan group of dozens of states are accusing Meta of an alleged scheme to "exploit young users for profit" by employing addictive features that harm children's mental health.
Read more ⬇️https://t.co/HtM8DpmeGF
— Real America's Voice (RAV) (@RealAmVoice) October 25, 2023
“I’m suing social media giant Meta for fueling a youth mental health crisis in America. Meta deliberately prioritized profits over the safety of our children, refusing to take corrective action,” Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said.
I’m suing social media giant Meta for fueling a youth mental health crisis in America. Meta deliberately prioritized profits over the safety of our children, refusing to take corrective action.
Meta ignored it.
Meta will be held accountable.https://t.co/D9m9NtPups
— Jason Miyares (@JasonMiyaresVA) October 24, 2023
“I sued Meta because they don’t see youngsters as children to be protected, they see them as dollar signs to be exploited. Proud to help lead this bipartisan group of 42 state AGs to hold Meta accountable,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said.
I sued Meta because they don’t see youngsters as children to be protected, they see them as dollar signs to be exploited. Proud to help lead this bipartisan group of 42 state AGs to hold Meta accountable. https://t.co/f4xzNIYaPu
— Josh Stein (@JoshStein_) October 24, 2023
CBS News added:
Features like “infinite scroll” and constant streams of alerts are hooking children and teens, contributing to the mental health crisis that now affects many young people, the states allege. The lawsuits come after failed settlement discussions with Meta, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Children are particularly susceptible to addictive technologies, and Meta has exploited these vulnerabilities, putting its quest for advertising revenue over the psychological and emotional well-being of young people,” said Brian L. Schwalb, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., in a statement.
The lawsuits claim that the company “falsely [assured] the public that its features were safe and suitable for young users.”
“Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly mislead the public about the substantial dangers of its social media platforms,” attorneys for the states allege in the suit.
In an emailed statement, Meta said it was disappointed by the route taken by the attorneys general.
Meta is determined to provide teens with “safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families,” the company said.
The issue became front and center in 2021 when Meta employee-turned whistleblower Frances Haugen shared documents from internal company research. In an interview with CBS News’ Scott Pelley, Haugen noted data indicating Instagram worsens suicidal thoughts and eating disorders for certain teenage girls.