42 States File Lawsuit Against Meta Over Kids’ Mental Health Concerns


Attorneys general from 42 states in the US have come together to file a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging that the company knowingly designed its products to target and engage children, leading to detrimental effects on their mental health. The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in California, accuses Meta of violating both state and federal laws by enticing young users to spend more time on their platforms.

Key Takeaway

Attorneys general from 42 states have sued Meta, accusing the company of deliberately designing its products to appeal to kids to the detriment of their mental health.

Allegations of Harmful Practices

The lawsuit claims that over the past decade, Meta has utilized powerful and unprecedented technologies to attract and captivate youth and teens, prioritizing profit over the well-being of young Americans. The attorneys general argue that Meta has violated laws protecting young consumers in several ways, including maximizing the time and attention children spend on its platforms, employing addictive product design while downplaying risks, and disregarding the research that suggests social media can harm young users.

Serious Concerns about Mental Health

The lawsuit highlights the link between excessive social media use and negative effects on mental health and well-being among young people. The attorneys general point to studies that indicate issues such as sleep problems, attention problems, and feelings of exclusion can be associated with problematic social media use. They argue that Meta not only disregarded these risks but also deceived users, parents, and the public about the dangers posed by their platforms.

Legal Violations

The attorneys general contend 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. They also argue that Meta’s business practices targeting young users breach state consumer protection laws.

An Unregulated Space

While the lawsuit against Meta signifies a coordinated effort by the states, it also exposes the lack of comprehensive regulation governing social media platforms in the US. Unlike markets such as Britain and Europe, where regulations exist, the US lacks robust legislation to address the negative impacts of social media on society.

Potential for Change and Settlement

Legal experts suggest that the attorneys general may seek a settlement with Meta rather than proceeding to court, aiming to secure changes in the company’s policies to mitigate the harms indicated in the lawsuit. Such a settlement could potentially set a precedent for other social media companies and prompt them to adopt similar measures.

Given the bipartisan support for protecting children from the adverse effects of social media, a lengthy legal battle between Meta and a coalition of most US states might not be favorable for the company’s public image.

“One of the few things that Republicans and Democrats can agree on these days is that they would like to protect kids from the dark side of social media,” said Paul Barrett, Deputy Director and Senior Research Scholar at the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

FTC Action to Prohibit Monetization of Kids

In related news, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has moved to completely prohibit Meta from monetizing content targeted at children. This step is seen as an additional measure to safeguard children’s online experience and protect them from potentially harmful advertising practices.

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