More than 30 attorneys general have filed a federal lawsuit against Meta, alleging that features on the company’s applications are addictive and harmful to the children who use them.
The federal lawsuit was filed in California by the attorneys general of 33 states, including California, Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia.
The lawsuit claims that “Meta — itself and through its flagship Social Media Platforms Facebook and Instagram (its Social Media Platforms or Platforms) — has profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans.”
There are also nine attorneys general filing similar lawsuits in their own states, bringing the total number of those involved to 41 states and Washington, D.C., according to WFAA.
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its Social Media Platforms,” states the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also claims that Meta has knowingly downplayed how addictive the applications are to children.
“Meta understands the cyclical and harmful nature of its psychologically manipulative features, but persists in subjecting young users to those features, choosing to downplay and deny the harmful aspects of its Platforms instead of correcting those problems,” states the lawsuit.
Additionally, the lawsuit accuses Meta of knowing users under 13 years old have Instagram and Facebook accounts while collecting their data without proper parental consent. In the case of Instagram, aside from failing to prevent those under 13 from using the platform, the lawsuit alleges that the app’s sign-up page essentially guides underage users in falsifying their age when creating an account.
“Specifically, Meta’s sign-up page contained a drop-down menu that automatically generated a date and year of birth representing the user to be 13 years old,” the plaintiffs contend.
“Meta knew that its use of a sign-up page automatically generating a date 13 years prior to the date of registration aided under-13 users in misrepresenting their age in order to access Instagram.”
The sign-up page has been updated and now generates an instant date and year instead of a date 13 years prior, as noted in the lawsuit.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is at the forefront of the lawsuit, told reporters during a press conference that the attorneys general involved will no longer “allow Meta to trample on our children’s mental and physical health, all to promote its products and increase its profits,” as reported by Politico.
“We refuse to allow the company to feign ignorance of the harm that’s causing, we refuse to let it continue business as usual,” Bonta added.
Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser echoed these statements at a press conference, saying that each plaintiff in the lawsuit is committed to seeing it out.
“This is not an action we take lightly,” said Weiser, per CNBC.
“This is not a case that we know is going to be decided very quickly. But it’s of the utmost importance. That’s why we dedicated level resources of the state agencies brought together here addressing issues that are top of our national agenda.”
Meta has pushed back against the allegation brought forth by the attorneys general, saying in a statement that the company shares “the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.”
“We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path,” added Meta in a statement sent to The Dallas Express.