A group of 42 attorney generals are suing Meta and claiming that Facebook and Instagram have addictive features that target teens. This lawsuit focuses on children’s privacy concerns, negative impact on users and deceptive business practices, including lack of transparency.  Ever since the increase in popularity of Snapchat and TikTok, Meta has been searching for ways to keep their younger users. Some features similar to other platforms are their Instagram Reel Page or stories. This is just the latest legal challenge for Meta as privacy and safety on online platforms become more of a priority. 

The lawsuit isn’t new, as similar allegations began after both a 2020 and 2021 investigation into claims that Meta contributes to mental health issues among young people. According to NBC News, “in 2020, 48 states and territories sued Meta on grounds of antitrust.” Companies have built-in harmful and manipulative tactics on these platforms. Back in 2021, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, released internal documents proving that Instagram knew of its impact on a teen’s body image. According to NBC News, “One set of documents about Instagram’s impact on teens found that thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made it worse.” Since this discovery, some states have passed more laws focusing on protecting teens from accessing sites without parental consent or more regulations for tech companies. 

The 33-page lawsuit states that the company’s motive is profit. The attorney generals claim that Meta designed algorithms, notifications, and features that cause the infinite scroll through the platform. All of these features have a negative impact on youth’s self-image and mental health.  According to the New York Times, “Meta had designed [psychologically manipulative product features to induce young users’ compulsive and extended use of platforms like Instagram.” Along with the Meta’s impact on teens’ mental health, the company is alleged to use its data to violate federal laws on children’s privacy. Colorado and California led a joint lawsuit filed by 33 states in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California claiming that Meta violated consumer protection laws by disregarding safety.  According to NBC News, a Meta spokesperson stated, “We share the attorney 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.”

Meta Platforms Inc. operates platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. Photo: Flickr

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