A group of 33 states are suing Meta for allegedly harming young people’s mental health by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook to hook children to its platforms.
In a complaint filed in Oakland, California federal court on Tuesday, 33 states claimed that Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its platforms and knowingly induced young children and teenagers into addictive and compulsive social media use.
The group of states, which include California and New York, allege that Meta violated consumer protection laws by unfairly ensnaring children and deceiving users about the safety of its platforms.
The broad-ranging lawsuit 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,” the states claim in the lawsuit.
“Its motive is profit.”
Reuters reports that much of the complaint stems from the release of internal research documents in 2021 that revealed how Facebook knows that Instagram can be toxic and harmful for teen girls.
A Highly Unusual Lawsuit
The lawsuit has arisen as a result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.
According to The New York Times, it is highly unusual for so many states to come together to sue a tech giant for consumer harms.
The coordination reveals that U.S. states are prioritizing the issue of children and online safety and combining legal resources to fight Meta — in a similar way that states have teamed up for cases against Big Tobacco and Big Pharma companies.
Nine other states are expected to file similar lawsuits on Tuesday, bringing the total number of states suing to 42.
Meta says it is working to provide a safer environment for teenagers on its apps and has introduced more than 30 tools to support teens and 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,” Meta says in a statement.
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