Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, is facing legal action from the attorneys-general of 41 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (D.C).
It’s been accused of intentionally using features to make its platforms more addictive to children and teenagers. This allegedly causes harm to their mental health.
The lawsuits say Meta has exploited young users through a model that prioritises profits and engagement over people.
41 of the 50 states in the U.S. and D.C. announced the suite of suits against Meta. 33 states collaborated on one federal suit.
The states’ attorneys-general allege Meta deliberately designed its platforms with features that entice children. For example, the infinite scroll, where content in a user’s personal feed never ends, and frequent alerts to keep users active for longer, and more frequently.
The lawsuits argue that these features are addictive and harmful to young people’s mental and physical health.
They also allege that Meta breached customer protection laws by falsely assuring the public about the safety of its platforms’ features.
Attorney-General Brian Schwalb (whose office filed the suit in the D.C. Superior Court) said, “Children are particularly susceptible to addictive technologies, and Meta has exploited these vulnerabilities”.
A recent report from the U.S. Public Health Service found up to 95% of 13 to 17-year-olds in the U.S. use a social media platform. More than a third said they use social media “almost constantly”.
The report found that 46% of teenagers (aged 13 to 17) felt worse about their body image because of social media.
Meta said they are “disappointed” that the attorneys-general chose “this path” of legal action, rather than working to create “clear” industry standards.
If it’s found to be responsible for any legal breaches, Meta could face financial and regulatory penalties.
Other platforms, including YouTube and TikTok, are also facing similar lawsuits about potential harms caused by social media.