42 state attorneys general are suing Meta for allegedly engineering Facebook and Instagram to be addictive. The bipartisan group of 33 states accuses social media firms of creating an addictive platform that harms the mental health of children and teenagers.

The lawsuit describes how Meta designed its platforms to encourage use while knowing about the risks. The lawsuit includes a long history of designing algorithms, alerts, endless scrolling, and notification settings to keep kids checking the app.

“This is not an action we take lightly,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told CNBC. “This is not a case that we expect to be decided quickly.” But it is quite important. That is why we committed high-level resources from the state agencies gathered here to solve challenges at the top of our national agenda.”

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This is the government’s latest move to limit Big Tech’s power. The Federal Trade Commission has sued Amazon for misusing its influence and control over its online shopping platform. While the Justice Department and multiple state attorneys general are suing Google for antitrust violations related to its search engine. Meta, on the other hand, has already dealt with a slew of issues, ranging from its handling of personal data to the Cambridge Analytica incident.

Attorneys general from 33 states filed the complaint in the Northern District of California Wednesday. With nine more filing in their home jurisdictions. The lawsuit was filed by the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Idaho, 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. The state of Florida has filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Colombia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont have filed in their respective states.

“The time has come for social media giants to stop trading in our children’s mental health for big profits,”. Attorney General Michelle Henry said in a statement. “The lawsuit claims that Meta not only targets young brains with addictive, damaging, and trap-door content, but it also lies to the public and parents about how safe their platforms are. Creators have amassed multibillion-dollar fortunes by encouraging a click-bait society that psychologically harms children.”

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Meta is accused of breaching the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal data on users under the age of 13 without parental authorization, according to the federal lawsuit. The lawsuit goes on to outline how the applications harm kids’ mental health by encouraging bodily dysmorphia through the use of filters and “likes,” which encourage inappropriate comparisons.

Meta is accused of willfully contributing to a “youth mental health crisis,” which has fueled violence. Raised the likelihood of youth suicide, and “damaged the potential of a generation of young people.”

“Consistent with this business model, Meta has developed and refined a set of psychologically manipulative Platform features. Designed to maximize young users’ time spent on its Social Media Platform,” according to the complaint. “Meta was aware that young users’ developing brains are particularly vulnerable to certain forms of manipulation. And it chose to exploit those vulnerabilities through targeted features such as dopamine-manipulating recommendation algorithms.”

Meta dismisses the charges, claiming that the research on social media and negative mental health outcomes is unclear. The business says it is in “meaningful dialogue” with attorneys general to support young people. Such as making accounts private for users under the age of 16, age verification, parental supervision tools, Quiet Mode, Take A Break warnings, and limiting the type of content minors can read.

“We share 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,” according to a spokeswoman for Meta. “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.”

This is not the first time Meta has been called to court on concerns about the safety and integrity of its platforms. The Federal Trade Commission, along with 48 states and territories, sued the business in December 2020 for anti-competitive behavior involving Facebook and WhatsApp.


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