A number of U.S. states have sued Meta for allegedly contributing to the ongoing youth mental health crisis.
The states claim that the parent company of Instagram and Facebook misled the public on how potentially dangerous the platforms could be for the mental health of teenagers, and that they could potentially trigger a number of addictive behaviors. Among the sources of the addiction named in the suit are the constant stream of news updates and push notifications that demand users’ constant attention.
The multi state federal suit includes California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said that “Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”
Today, my office and a nationwide coalition of AGs are suing @Meta for harming kids with its platforms and fueling the youth mental health crisis.
We're going to end Meta's behavior and keep our kids safe online. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/xh9icZvUpG
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) October 24, 2023
James continued, saying “Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable.”
The multi-state suit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The states accuse Meta of violating a wide variety of state-based consumer protection statutes, and additionally a federal children’s privacy law known as COPPA. COPPA prohibits companies from collecting the personal data of children under 13 without a parent’s consent.
Outside of the mental health suit, the state of Florida also filed a separate federal lawsuit alleging that Meta’s platforms misled users on the potential health risks of beauty products.
Social Media Reactions
The federal suit is a landmark of its kind. Previously, social media companies have faced legal action over specific phenomenons–notably, Snapchat was sued by a group of parents who lost children to accidental fentanyl overdoses, blaming the platform for the communication between dealers and customers, as much of the sales were permitted under the app’s guidelines.
The document also claims that “Meta’s design choices and practices take advantage of and contribute to young users’ susceptibility to addiction. They exploit psychological vulnerabilities of young users through the false promise that meaningful social connection lies in the next story, image, or video and that ignoring the next piece of social content could lead to social isolation.”
Naturally, social media users had a lot to say about the historic suit. Many were supportive, agreeing that Meta’s platforms largely contributed to the ongoing mental health crisis.
Great and a very important job !
— gandalv fellas 💎 (@Microinteracti1) October 24, 2023
Elsewhere, some claim that neglectful parenting is to blame for minors’ and young adults negative experiences on social media.
— Dennis Kneale (@denniskneale) October 24, 2023
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is yet to comment on the impending lawsuit at this time.