Numerous states are taking legal action against Meta, contending that the tech giant has deliberately crafted its social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, to be addictive to children and teens.
Last Tuesday, attorneys general from various states, ranging from California to Wisconsin, filed federal lawsuits accusing Meta of intentionally turning kids into social media addicts.
The lawsuits argue that Meta’s motive was to keep children hooked to boost profits, and allege that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, breaching federal law.
Features like “infinite scroll” and constant streams of alerts are ensnaring children and teens, contributing to the mental health crisis now impacting many young individuals, the states allege. This legal move comes after failed settlement discussions with Meta, according to the Wall Street Journal.
States sue Meta alleging induced addiction in kids and teens
“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,” stated Brian L. Schwalb, the attorney general for Washington, D.C.
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,” the attorneys for the states allege in the suit.
In an emailed statement, Meta conveyed disappointment over the route taken by the attorneys general.
Meta is committed to providing teens with “safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families,” the company stated.
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The issue was thrust into the spotlight in 2021 when Meta employee-turned whistleblower Frances Haugen shared documents from internal company research.
Haugen pointed out data indicating Instagram exacerbates suicidal thoughts and eating disorders for certain teenage girls.
The former Facebook product manager’s testimony to Congress is noted in Tuesday’s lawsuit.
Privacy concerns surrounding the handling of children’s personal information have also led to hefty fines against social media companies. Google-owned YouTube paid $170 million to settle government and state claims that it illegally collected data from users under 13.
With information from CBS News