The suit claims Meta used algorithms and notifications to keep youth engaged and suggests that features like “likes” negatively affect mental health.
The states aim to end what they deem “exploitative” and “harmful” practices by Meta, seeking penalties and restitution.
Agroup of 42 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Meta on Tuesday, alleging that the features on its Facebook and Instagram platforms are designed to be addictive to children and teenagers.
The lawsuit argues that Meta deliberately designed its Facebook and Instagram products to keep young users engaged for extended periods and entice them to return repeatedly. It alleges that Meta achieved this through algorithmic design, frequent alerts and notifications, and infinite scrolling through platform feeds.
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” the lawsuit states. “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.”
New York, California, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Washington are among the myriad of states involved.
Furthermore, the lawsuit asserts that features such as “likes” and photo filters contribute to negative effects on teens’ mental health, promoting social comparison and body dysmorphia.
The lawsuit argues that Meta’s scheme involved creating a business model to maximize young users’ time on its platforms, implementing “psychologically manipulative features,” publishing “misleading” safety reports, and continuing to use harmful features despite evidence of harm while “downplaying the impact” on young users’ well-being.
The suit additionally accuses Meta of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from users under the age of 13 without parental consent. The states seek to end the “exploitative” and “harmful” practices by Meta, which they deem unlawful, as well as seeking penalties and restitution.
“Just like Big Tobacco and vaping companies have done in years past, Meta chose to maximize its profits at the expense of public health, specifically harming the health of the youngest among us,” Phil Weiser, Colorado’s attorney general, said in a statement to the New York Times.
A Meta spokesperson told CNBC that the company is committed to providing safe online experiences for teens and their families and has introduced numerous tools to support this goal.
“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,” the spokesperson added.
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