Several U.S. states initiated legal action against the tech giant Meta and its social platform, Instagram, on Tuesday. The lawsuit alleges that the company played a role in aggravating the youth mental health crisis by designing addictive products.
The legal complaint, involving 33 state attorneys general, including those from California and New York, was filed in a federal court in Northern California, the Daily Wire reported. The states claim that Meta's actions breach children's online privacy standards and state consumer protection laws.
The extensive 233-page document accuses Meta of employing advanced technologies to "entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens," and doing so in the name of profit.
The lawsuit centers on the argument that Meta, through deliberate concealment of its tactics, has turned its most susceptible audience—children and teenagers—into obsessive users of its social media platforms.
The complaint refers to multiple studies indicating a correlation between the usage of Meta's platforms by children and a range of negative impacts, including "depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life, and many other negative outcomes."
In May, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy made public an advisory drawing a connection between extensive social media usage and deteriorating mental health among the younger population.
A 2019 research study indicated that teenagers aged 12 to 15, who engaged in more than three hours of daily social media activity, had double the likelihood of manifesting depression and anxiety symptoms.
Responding to these accusations, Meta conveyed its commitment to ensuring a safe online environment for teenagers and highlighted the introduction of tools designed for this purpose. It claims that 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.”
In addition to the 33 states, eight other state attorneys general, along with the District of Columbia, are reportedly pursuing separate legal actions against Meta for similar reasons, raising the total count of states involved to 42.
The repercussions for Meta, if the states are successful, could be significant, with potential hefty fines and mandates to revamp its advertising approach and platform design.