Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is facing a federal lawsuit brought by numerous US states, accusing the company of misleading the public about the risks associated with using social media and contributing to a mental health crisis among young people. The lawsuit alleges that Meta used addictive features to attract users while concealing the substantial dangers of its platforms. It also claims that the company violated consumer protection laws through deceptive conduct and collected data on children under 13, in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, along with 33 other attorneys general, has signed the lawsuit, while an additional nine states have filed similar claims in their own lawsuits. Meta expressed disappointment with the lawsuit and emphasized its commitment to providing safe online experiences for teens and their families. The company has introduced numerous tools to support teens.
The lawsuit follows an investigation into Meta's practices in 2021, prompted by whistleblower Frances Haugen's testimony that the company knew its products could harm children. Meta disputes claims that Instagram is damaging to young people's mental health and argues that the research demonstrates that many teens find Instagram helpful during challenging moments. However, there is research suggesting that spending extended periods on social media can have negative effects on young people's mental health.
The states involved in the lawsuit are seeking financial damages and a cessation of Meta's alleged harmful practices. Specific features, such as likes, alerts, and filters, are mentioned in the lawsuit as factors known to promote young users' body dysmorphia, a condition where individuals excessively worry about perceived flaws in their appearance. The lawsuit alleges that Meta's design choices exploit young users' susceptibility to addiction.