Ucreview – Many states within the U.S., such as California and New York, have filed lawsuits against Meta Platforms Inc. due to the company’s alleged contribution to the youth mental health crisis. The claims suggest that Meta knowingly and intentionally created features on Instagram and Facebook that are addictive to children, thus causing harm.
33 states have filed a lawsuit in a federal court in California citing that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, frequently gathers data on children under the age of 13 without obtaining permission from their guardians, which is in clear violation of federal law. Furthermore, nine attorneys general from different states have taken legal action in their respective states, making the overall number of states taking action against Meta 41, along with Washington, D.C.
According to the complaint, Meta has utilized advanced and unparalleled technologies to allure, involve, and ultimately trap young people and adolescents. The company’s ultimate goal is to generate revenue, and in its pursuit of maximum financial gain, Meta has consistently deceived the public about the significant hazards posed by its social media platforms. The complaint alleges that the company has concealed the methods by which these platforms take advantage of and manipulate their most vulnerable users: teenagers and children.
Meta’s practices that violate the law are the subject of the suits, which seek financial damages, restitution, and an end to said practices.
According to a statement made by New York Attorney General Letitia James, children and teenagers are experiencing unprecedented levels of poor mental health, and social media companies like Meta are responsible for this. James has accused Meta of profiting from the pain of children by intentionally creating its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to them, while also causing a decrease in their self-esteem.
Meta has stated that it shares the same commitment as the attorneys general in providing safe and positive online experiences for teenagers. The company has already released more than 30 tools to assist teenagers and their families.
According to the company, they feel let down by the attorneys general’s decision to take this path instead of collaborating with industry players to establish understandable and suitable guidelines for the various apps that teenagers use.
A group of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont have filed a federal lawsuit after an investigation into Meta. The investigation followed damaging reports by The Wall Street Journal in late 2021. The reports were based on Meta’s own research and revealed that the company was aware of the negative impact Instagram can have on teenagers, particularly teenage girls, with regards to their mental health and body image. One study conducted internally found that 13.5% of teen girls said Instagram worsened suicidal thoughts, while 17% said it worsened eating disorders.
After initial reports, a group of news outlets, led by The Associated Press, conducted their own investigation using leaked documents provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen. Haugen has testified before both Congress and a British parliamentary committee regarding her findings.
“We are drawing the line on Meta’s harmful practices that cultivate addiction among our children and teens, all to boost corporate profits,” stated Rob Bonta, California’s Attorney General. Today’s lawsuit is a clear message that such practices will not be tolerated.”
According to Pew Research Center, social media has become almost universal among teenagers in the United States and in many other parts of the world. The report shows that nearly all teenagers aged 13 to 17 in the U.S. use at least one social media platform, with about one-third stating that they use it “almost constantly.”
Social media companies are required to follow federal regulations that prohibit kids under 13 from joining their platforms. However, research shows that children are able to bypass these bans with or without their parents’ consent, resulting in many young children having social media accounts. According to the complaint filed by multiple states, Meta knowingly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting data from children without first obtaining permission from their parents.
Social media platforms have implemented measures to address worries about the mental well-being of children, but these solutions can be easily bypassed. TikTok, for example, has set a default 60-minute time limit for users under 18, but minors can override this restriction by entering a passcode. While TikTok, Snapchat, and other platforms have been accused of contributing to the mental health crisis among young people, they are not included in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
According to Washington D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, their current focus is on the Meta empire, which includes Facebook and Instagram. When asked about potential investigations into TikTok or Snapchat, Schwalb declined to comment.
Putting profits over people, these companies are the epitome of using technology to addict teenagers to social media. Their actions are deemed as the worst of the worst, with no consideration for the negative impacts it has on the youth.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, urged tech companies, parents, and caregivers to take swift action in safeguarding children from the harmful effects of social media in May.
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