Meta and its subsidiary Instagram are being sued in the United States for allegedly fuelling a mental health crisis by deliberately addicting teenagers to their social media platforms.
Dozens of states across America have joined California in the federal lawsuit filed yesterday, which alleges Meta designed and deployed harmful features on Facebook and Instagram to addict young people, to their mental and physical detriment.
Californian Attorney-General Rob Bonta led the filing of the lawsuit for the coalition of 33 states, who seek injunctive and monetary relief.
The complaint alleges Meta violated federal and state laws including those governing children’s online privacy, false and misleading advertising, and unfair competition.
It alleges Meta’s misconduct included:
- creating a business model focused on maximizing young users’ time on its platforms;
- employing harmful and psychologically manipulative platform features while misleading the public about the safety of those features;
- publishing reports purporting to show misleadingly low rates of user harms; and
- in spite of the overwhelming evidence linking its platforms to young user harms, refusing to address those harms while continuing to conceal and downplay its platforms’ adverse effects.
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” the complaint states.
“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 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.”
Meta said it was “disappointed” in the lawsuit.
“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 said.