More than 40 US states sue Meta for profiting from ‘children’s pain’

This photo shows the Threads logo displayed on a cell phone in San Anselmo, California on July 05, 2023.  - AFP
This photo shows the Threads logo displayed on a cell phone in San Anselmo, California on July 05, 2023. – AFP
  • Meta Misled the Public About the Dangers of Its Platform: Lawsuit.
  • “Children are suffering record levels of poor mental health.”
  • It is disappointing that the Attorney General singled out Meta:Co.

Dozens of US states on Tuesday accused social media giant Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, of deceptive and unlawful conduct that harms vulnerable youth for financial gain “from the pain of children.”

“In seeking to maximize its financial profits, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the significant dangers of its social media platforms,” ​​a joint lawsuit filed in federal court in California argued.

More than 40 states in total are suing Meta, though some have opted to file cases in local courts rather than join the federal case. AFP,

The legal filing argues that Meta has exploited young users by creating a business model designed to maximize time spent on the platform despite harm to their health.

“Children and teens are suffering record levels of poor mental health, and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

“Meta has profited from children’s pain by knowingly designing their platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”

According to James, the lawsuit asks the federal court to order Meta to stop the manipulative tactics and pay restitution as well as a hefty financial penalty.

“Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to the national youth mental health crisis and must be held accountable,” James said.

Some states have passed laws prohibiting minors from being on social media without parental permission.

Meta ‘disappointed’ with suit

Meta said he is “disappointed” by the lawsuit and that states are not working with social media companies to create age-appropriate standards.

Meta said it has developed more than 30 tools across its apps to support teen users, and make it easier for parents to “shape” online activity.

The Silicon Valley tech firm argued that it is disappointing that the attorney general has chosen Meta rather than finding an industry-wide solution given the popularity of rivals including TikTok, YouTube and Snap.

Meta said social media can also be a place where young people struggling with other issues in their lives go to find community support.

According to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the legal complaints resulted from a nationwide investigation announced in November 2021.

The investigation was launched after Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen leaked more than 20,000 pages of internal documents to the media, sparking criticism that the social media giant has prioritized profits before the safety of its users.

During testimony before US and European lawmakers in 2021, he stressed that Facebook has failed to reduce toxic content and that the company cannot be trusted to change its ways.

Facebook changed its name to Meta later that year, with critics suspecting it was intended to distance the company from its social networking controversies.

Meta’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg defended the company at the time, saying that “the argument that we knowingly push content that makes people angry for the sake of profit is wildly illogical.”

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