Meta Sued By US States Over Harm To Children

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Dozens of US states sue Meta Platforms, alleging Instagram and Facebook are harming children’s mental health

Meta Platforms is facing another lawsuit, after many US states filed legal action, alleging its Instagram and Facebook platforms are harming children’s mental health.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit is alleging that both those social media platforms are are addictive and harm children’s mental health.

Meta has over the years faced many allegations that its services and platforms are not good for children. It comes amid concern from parents about the amount of time children are glued to their screens.


Lawsuit allegations

Cases such as 14-year-old Molly Russell in the UK, who took her own life after viewing self-harm images on Instagram, only increased concerns about online content.

Now 33 US states have sued Meta Platforms, alleging the company contributes to the youth mental health crisis by knowingly and deliberately designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms.

The lawsuit alleged that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram has “profoundly altered the physiological and social realities of a generation of young Americans.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges “Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youths and teens. Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximise its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly mislead 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,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that Meta “engaged in, and continues to engage in, deceptive and unlawful conduct in violation of state and federal law.”

The lawsuit from 33 states was 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.

In addition, nine attorneys general are filing lawsuits in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 41 and Washington, DC.

The lawsuits seek financial damages and restitution and an end to Meta’s practices that are in violation of the law.

Meta response

In a statement to the Associated Press, 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 federal suit is reportedly the result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.

In October 2021, the head of Instagram confirmed the platform was ‘pausing’ the development of the “Instagram Kids” app, after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on leaked internal research which suggested that Instagram had a harmful effect on teenagers, particularly teen girls.

Facebook had said it would require Instagram users to share their date of birth, in an effort to improve child safety.

Following the first reports, a consortium of news organisations, including The Associated Press, published their own findings based on leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who has testified before Congress and a British parliamentary committee about what she found.