OAN’s Stephanie Stahl
12:36 PM – Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Dozens of U.S. states have opened up a lawsuit against the Instagram-parent company Meta, formerly known as Facebook, claiming it is harming young people’s mental health by purposely designing “addictive” features on its platforms.
The lawsuit was filed in a California federal court on Tuesday as a result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general (AG).
33 states, including California, New York, Tennessee, and Indiana are involved in the widespread lawsuit.
Nine other AG’s also filed in their respective states, bringing the total number of states involved up to 42.
Based on Meta’s own research, the lawsuit accuses the social media giant of designing features — such as infinite newsfeeds and frequent notifications — to exploit and addict minors whose brains are still developing.
Meta was allegedly aware that Instagram harms teenagers’ mental health, especially in relation to body image issues. One internal study found that 13.5% of teen girls reported worsening suicidal thoughts after viewing Instagram, while 17% of teen girls reported that it worsens their eating disorders.
New York AG Letitia James also says that Meta is to blame for the youth mental health crisis.
“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,” James asserted.
The extensive legal action also alleges that Meta has consistently gathered data on children below the age of 13 without obtaining the necessary parental consent, which violates federal regulations.
The lawsuit calls for Meta to cease its manipulative tactics and requests the company to pay substantial financial penalties, including restitution, according to James.
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. 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,” the complaint reads.
Meta responded to the lawsuit with a statement, contending that it shares the AG’s commitment to ensuring teenagers have safe and positive interactions online.
“We’re disappointed that 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.
Meta also added that it has already introduced over 30 tools to support minors and their families.
Social media usage among teenagers is almost ubiquitous in the United States and various other regions across the globe.
According to the Pew Research Center, up to 95% of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 in the U.S. use social media, and over a third of them claim to be engaged with social media “almost constantly.”
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