41 States Sue Meta Alleging Addictive Social Media Features Harm Youth

A number of U.S. states have filed lawsuits against Facebook's parent company, Meta, for allegedly using its technology to "entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare" teens.

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Meta is in hot water with a number of states in the U.S.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led company, which owns and operates Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is facing lawsuits from a whopping 41 states. Colorado, Tennessee, and Massachusetts led the joint suit filed by 33 states on Tuesday, while the District of Columbia and eight other states filed separate lawsuits against Meta.

The filings allege that Meta knowingly used features on Instagram and Facebook to engage and addict children to its platforms, despite claiming that the platforms were safe for young users.

The states also claim that Meta’s algorithms were designed to push children into harmful content and that features like “infinite scroll” and other persistent notifications were used to hook young users. The company is accused of violating consumer protection laws and federal privacy laws for children.

“Research has shown that young people’s use of Meta’s Social Media Platforms is associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life, and many other negative outcomes,” states the 233-page joint complaint retrieved by Deadline. “Nonetheless, Meta has continued to deny and downplay these harmful effects to the public and to promote its Platforms as safe for young users.”

The complaint elaborated further, “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. It has concealed the ways in which these Platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children. And it has ignored the sweeping damage these Platforms have caused to the mental and physical health of our nation’s youth. In doing so, Meta engaged in, and continues to engage in, deceptive and unlawful conduct in violation of state and federal law.”

A Meta spokesperson weighed in on the lawsuit, saying, “We share the attorney 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.”

In an unrelated lawsuit filed last year, a California family filed a suit against Meta alleging that their teenage daughter’s eating disorder and mental health issues were caused by Instagram. 

At the top of 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy voiced concerns about children using social media, suggesting that even the minimum age of 13 was still “too early” to use the platforms. Murthy doubled down on his comments in May, calling social media a "profound risk" for youth and suggested parents restrict their access to it.

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