Federal lawsuit accuses Meta of exploiting young users, violating privacy laws
A federal lawsuit targeting Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, was filed Wednesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James and a coalition of 32 attorneys general. The suit accuses the tech giant of deliberately harming the mental health of young users.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Meta purposefully designed addictive and harmful features on its platforms, targeting children and teenagers. The suit also claims Meta collected data on children under 13 without parental consent, a violation of federal law.
“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” said Attorney General James. “Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem. Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable.”
This legal action coincides with state-level legislation recently proposed by Attorney General James aimed at protecting children online. Nine additional attorneys general are filing lawsuits in their own states, bringing the total count of states taking action against Meta to 42.
The lawsuit points to algorithms designed to increase user engagement and features such as “likes,” which are known to harm young users’ self-esteem. The suit also highlights incessant alerts designed to keep young users constantly engaged, even during school hours.
The allegations are backed by several studies, including Meta’s own research, linking platform use to a range of mental health issues among young people, including depression and anxiety. The suit contends that Meta, despite public denials, was fully aware of the harm its platforms could cause to young users, a claim substantiated by internal documents leaked by a whistleblower.
The coalition of states seeks to prevent Meta from continuing these practices and is calling for penalties and restitution. The lawsuit involves a broad coalition of states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut and many others.
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