In significant legal action, 42 states, including California, Colorado, New York, Arizona, and Illinois, have jointly filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging that the tech giant intentionally designed its platforms to attract young users at the expense of their mental health. The lawsuit claims that Meta violated both state and federal laws in its pursuit of engaging young Americans.
The legal action asserts that over the past decade, Meta has used advanced technologies to entice and engage youth, ultimately harming their well-being in pursuit of profit. It emphasizes several ways Meta is alleged to have violated laws protecting young consumers, including maximizing children’s time on its platforms, employing addictive product design while downplaying associated risks, and ignoring research indicating potential harm to young users.
“The state AGs are betting that there is enough evidence of harm to certain vulnerable children that Meta will not want to fight indefinitely in the court of public opinion, even if the company believes it can proffer contradictory evidence suggesting that some kids may benefit from properly supervised platform use,” Barrett said, noting that this kind of lawsuit often aims for a settlement — not a win in court.
One critical allegation is that Meta violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting data from users under 13 without parental consent. The lawsuit also argues that Meta’s business practices targeting young users breach state consumer protection laws.
Notably, this coordinated legal assault against a major social media company is a response to the lack of significant regulation in the U.S. concerning the impact of social media on society. In this regulatory void, state attorneys general are taking the initiative to address the issues related to youth safety and mental health.
A potential settlement could require Meta to implement changes to mitigate the harms outlined in the lawsuit. While this lawsuit focuses on Meta, it might set a precedent for the entire industry, with other social media companies facing similar demands. The bipartisan support for protecting children from the negative effects of social media further highlights the significance of this legal action.
In the end, this lawsuit could force Meta to reconsider its policies and practices, with implications that reach far beyond the individual case, potentially impacting the entire social media landscape.
This legal challenge reflects growing concerns about the influence of social media on young users and their mental well-being, as numerous states unite to seek change in the industry.