A group of 42 attorneys general from both parties have filed a lawsuit against Meta, accusing the company of creating addictive features on its Facebook and Instagram platforms, which specifically target children and teenagers. This legal action represents a significant challenge to Meta’s business, with additional lawsuits being filed in various districts.
The attorneys general allege that Meta intentionally designed its platforms to keep young users engaged for extended periods, employing strategies like algorithmic manipulation, excessive notifications, and endless scrolling features. They argue that these practices have detrimental effects on the mental health of young users, leading to issues such as social comparison and body image concerns.
Moreover, the lawsuit accuses Meta of breaching the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information from users under the age of 13 without parental consent. The states involved are seeking not only an end to these alleged harmful practices but also penalties and compensation.
According to the attorneys general, Meta was aware of the negative impact its designs could have on young users, despite publicly downplaying these effects. This assertion is supported by internal documents leaked by a former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, which revealed Meta’s knowledge of the harms associated with its platforms.
In response, a Meta spokesperson expressed disappointment, stating that the company had already implemented numerous tools to support the safety of teenagers online. The attorneys general emphasized that while other social media companies might also engage in similar practices, Meta’s strategies were particularly effective in keeping users hooked.
The broad bipartisan coalition of attorneys general highlights the collective commitment to addressing consumer protection issues, especially those concerning the safety and well-being of children online. This development also aligns with President Joe Biden’s emphasis on safeguarding young people’s online experiences in his State of the Union address.