New Delhi: Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is facing a significant legal challenge as dozens of U.S. states, including California, Colorado, New York, Arizona, and others, have filed a lawsuit accusing the tech giant of intentionally designing its products to target children, which they claim has negatively impacted their mental health. In a coordinated effort, 33 states jointly filed the lawsuit, while nine attorneys general separately filed suits in their own jurisdictions.
The lawsuit alleges that Meta violated both state and federal laws by using tactics to entice young users to spend more time on their platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. It claims that Meta leveraged addictive design elements while downplaying the risks associated with these platforms for children. The suit also points to Meta’s disregard for research, both internal and external, that indicates social media can harm young users.
Among the claims in the lawsuit are allegations that Meta violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting data from users under the age of 13 without obtaining parental consent. Additionally, it argues that Meta’s business practices targeting young users breach state consumer protection laws.
The lawsuit underscores the potential harm caused by excessive social media use, including sleep problems, attention issues, and feelings of exclusion among young people. California Attorney General Rob Bonta stated that Meta knowingly ignored these dangers and deceived users, parents, and the public, all in pursuit of profit.
The tech industry trade group, Chamber of Progress, has countered the lawsuit by arguing that social media positively impacts kids and teens. They suggest that empirical studies do not conclusively link social media to negative mental health trends among young people.
This legal action represents a coordinated effort by multiple states to hold a major social media company accountable. Without comprehensive federal regulation, it showcases the states’ proactive approach to addressing the potential harms associated with social media, particularly its impact on young users.
In 2021, a former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, ignited a firestorm of concern among legislators and parents when she exposed confidential internal documents. Among these revelations was shocking information regarding Instagram’s influence on teenagers. The documents unveiled that 32% of teenage girls reported that when they experienced body image issues, Instagram exacerbated their negative feelings.