Justice Ministers from 42 American states, including the giants of California and New York, have launched legal suits against tech conglomerate, Meta, claiming that their social platforms, Facebook and Instagram, ensnare the young in a web of addiction.
“In the Golden State, 33 states have unified in their legal pursuit, while nine have opted to seek justice in their own state courts,” revealed New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James.
The lawsuit alleges that Meta, seemingly unabashed, harvests data from children under 13 without the consent of their guardians, a blatant violation of federal law. It reads, “Meta wields unparalleled technology to lure, engage and ultimately ensnare our young. Their guiding star? Sheer profit. In their quest to line their pockets, Meta has repeatedly hoodwinked the public about the significant risks lurking within their social media platforms.”
The document further states, “They’ve masterfully concealed the mechanisms by which these platforms exploit and manipulate their most vulnerable: our teens and children.”
The states are clamouring for monetary compensation and restitution, demanding an end to Facebook and Instagram’s illicit practices.
“Our children are suffering, facing unprecedented mental health crises, and it’s companies like Meta that are to blame. Meta has profited from our children’s pain, deliberately engineering their platforms with manipulative features that trap children in a digital spiral, all the while eroding their self-worth,” fervently stated Attorney General James.
This sweeping federal lawsuit is the culmination of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of state prosecutors from places spanning California to Vermont, following media reports suggesting the company was fully aware of the harm Instagram could inflict upon teenagers – particularly girls – concerning mental health and body image.
A cited study noted a disturbing 13.5% of teenage girls affirming Instagram exacerbated suicidal thoughts, and 17% stating it intensified eating disorders.
Teenage engagement with social media is virtually ubiquitous in the US and many parts of the world. Nearly every American teen, aged 13 to 17, is active on social media, with a third engaged incessantly.
To align with federal regulations, social media firms prohibit children under 13 from registering on their platforms. However, it appears children easily sidestep these bans, with or without parental consent.
Thus, the lawsuit argues, Meta knowingly contravened the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, collecting data without informing or seeking permission from guardians.
While other social platforms like TikTok and Snapchat have also been accused of exacerbating the youth’s mental health crisis, they remain outside the scope of this lawsuit.
Washington’s Attorney General, Brian Schwalb, remarked that their sights, for now, are set on Facebook and Instagram, asserting, “They’re the worst culprits, exploiting technology that has our teens hooked, all in the name of profit.”