BUSINESS + ECONOMY

States sue Meta claiming its social platforms are addictive and harming children’s mental health

Oct 24, 2023, 10:34 AM | Updated: Oct 25, 2023, 12:50 pm

a sign reads "meta"...

FILE - The Meta logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris, France, on June 14, 2023. A group of 33 states including California and New York are suing Meta Platforms Inc. for harming young people’s mental health and contributing the youth mental health crisis by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

Dozens of US states, including California and New York, are suing Meta Platforms Inc. for harming young people’s mental health and contributing the youth mental health crisis by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in California also claims that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. 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,” the complaint says. “It has concealed the ways in which these platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children.”

In addition to the 33 states, nine other attorneys general are filing in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 42.

“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement. “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.”

In a statement, Meta said it shares “the attorneys 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,” the company added.

The broad-ranging suit is the result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont. It follows damning newspaper reports, first by The Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2021, based on the Meta’s own research that found that the company knew about the harms Instagram can cause teenagers — especially teen girls — when it comes to mental health and body image issues. One internal study cited 13.5% of teen girls saying Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls saying it makes eating disorders worse.

Following the first reports, a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press, published their own findings based on leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who has testified before Congress and a British parliamentary committee about what she found.

The use of social media among teens is nearly universal in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Up to 95% of youth ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center.

To comply with federal regulation, social media companies ban kids under 13 from signing up to their platforms — but children have been shown to easily get around the bans, both with and without their parents’ consent, and many younger kids have social media accounts.

Other measures social platforms have taken to address concerns about children’s mental health are also easily circumvented. For instance, TikTok recently introduced a default 60-minute time limit for users under 18. But once the limit is reached, minors can simply enter a passcode to keep watching.
In May, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called on tech companies, parents and caregivers to take “immediate action to protect kids now” from the harms of social media.
__
Associated Press Writers Maysoon Khan in New York and Ashraf Khalil in Washington DC contributed to this story.

Related:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Business + Economy

People skate at Millcreek Common in Millcreek on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. The New Americans Internatio...

Eric Cabrera

New Americans International Market offers space for newly settled Americans to share culture and connect

The New Americans International Market at Millcreek Common is helping new refugees and immigrants connect with the community.

2 days ago

A customer checks prices while shopping at a grocery store in Wheeling, Ill., Friday, Jan. 19, 2024...

Curt Gresseth

Inflation eases but grocery store prices in Utah still stinging

Inflation eases slightly in April, but in Utah, consumers are still feeling the pinch of grocery-store prices.

3 days ago

FILE - A street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange June 14, 2022. The U.S. stock ...

Simone Seikaly

LISTEN: Utah analyst on stock market highs

Stock market investors are reportedly energized by a report showing inflation is cooling somewhat across the U.S.

3 days ago

An EV charging in Salt Lake City. SLC, like many cities around the United States, lacks the chargin...

Alexandrea Bonilla

EV charging is lacking in Salt Lake City

Only about 1.6% of Salt Lake City listings are EV friendly. That makes homes with electric vehicle chargers a hot commodity.

4 days ago

A child experiences an interactive art exhibit at "Dreamscapes," the business at the Shops at South...

Aimee Cobabe

Shops at South Town asks temporary business to leave

Dreamscapes interactive art museum will relocate, after spending two years at the Shops at South Town in Sandy, Utah.

4 days ago

FILE: Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Jazz owner Ryan Smith and city an...

Jessica Lowell

Mayor trying to keep Abravanel Hall “in its present form”

On Tuesday, Wilson said she's received "an extensive amount of input" about the future of the Utah Symphony's home.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

States sue Meta claiming its social platforms are addictive and harming children’s mental health