Legal Storm Brews For Meta: 41 U.S. States Accuse Company Of Targeting Children With Deceptive Features On Facebook and Instagram
Meta, the company headed by Mark Zuckerberg and overseeing Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, is under siege from legal actions initiated Oct. 24 by 41 U.S. states.
In a joint lawsuit led by Colorado, Tennessee, and Massachusetts, comprising 33 states, and multiple separate suits filed by eight additional states and the District of Columbia, Meta is being accused of deliberately incorporating features on its Facebook and Instagram platforms that ensnare and addict children, all while deceptively marketing them as safe environments, Complex reported. These legal complaints assert that Meta’s algorithms were intentionally designed to expose minors to harmful content, utilizing tactics like “infinite scroll” and persistent notifications to maintain the engagement of young users. Allegations range from breaches of consumer protection laws to violations of federal privacy regulations concerning 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. “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 lawsuit asserts, “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 continued, “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 responded to the lawsuits, stating, “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 a separate lawsuit filed last year, a California family claimed that their teenage daughter’s eating disorder and mental health issues resulted from her use of Instagram.
Early in 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy expressed concerns regarding children’s use of social media, suggesting that even the current minimum age of 13 for platform usage was “too early.” He reiterated these concerns in May, labeling social media a “profound risk” for youth and advising parents to restrict their children’s access to such platforms.
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