More than 40 attorneys general have filed lawsuits against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging that the social media sites are designed to be addictive and are “knowingly damaging” the mental health of teens. The lawsuit also says the apps have profoundly altered the “psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans.”
One joint lawsuit from 33 different attorneys general was filed Tuesday in San Francisco federal court. Eight other states, along with the District of Columbia, have filed separate lawsuits.
The lawsuits represent both Democrats and Republicans and are the largest state-led challenge alleging a social media company has violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and consumer protection laws.
“Just as litigation effectively spurred change by the opioid pharmaceutical industry and Big Tobacco, we expect this lawsuit will inspire Meta to improve its child safety practices,” Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox said. “Regulating social media companies to protect minors is not a partisan issue, and most people across the political spectrum agree we cannot allow addictive algorithms and deceptive practices to continue harming our children. This action shows we will continue to fight for the mental health and well-being of our kids.”
The attorneys general claim that Meta deliberately crafted Facebook and Instagram to keep young users hooked and coming back for more. They did this by tinkering with algorithms, bombarding users with notifications, and introducing the endless scroll feature. On top of that, the lawsuit argues that these platforms have features like “likes” and photo filters that can harm teens’ mental health by promoting social comparison and body image issues.
“We refuse to allow Meta to trample on our children’s mental and physical health, all to promote its products and increase its profits,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is leading the federal lawsuit.
The Associated Press reports that Meta issued a statement saying 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.”
Earlier this year Emily’s Hope reported that more than 60 families of young Americans who died from fentanyl poisoning have filed a lawsuit against Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat. They allege that Snapchat’s disappearing messaging feature is a defective product that facilitates the illegal drug trade. On the Emily’s Hope podcast, Grieving Out Loud, several parents have spoken out about how their children died from fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl that they bought via Snapchat.