- Thirty-three states sued Meta, alleging potential harm to young people’s mental health.
- The states accuse Meta of designing Instagram and Facebook features that addict children to the platforms.
- The lawsuit followed an investigation by a coalition of attorneys general.
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Dozens of US states, including California and New York, are suing Meta Platforms Inc. alleging that the company is harming young people’s mental health and contributing to the youth mental health crisis by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, also claims that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law.
“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. “It has concealed the ways in which these platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children.”
In addition to the 33 states, nine other attorneys general are filing in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 42.
“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 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 harm 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.