Calif. leads 33-state suit against Meta over social media addiction

Legislative attempts to rein in the addictive nature of social media have largely failed. Now, state lawyers are on the case.

Dozens of U.S. states, including California and New York, are suing Meta Platforms Inc. for allegedly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms and harm their mental health.

The lawsuit, filed by 33 states in federal court in California, claims that Meta collects data on children under 13 without parental consent, in violation of federal law.


Driving the news: Nine attorneys general from different states are filing lawsuits in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 41, along with Washington, D.C.

  • The suits seek financial damages, restitution, and an end to Meta’s practices that violate the law.
  • The states argue that Meta has misled the public about the dangers of its social media platforms, exploiting and manipulating vulnerable consumers, specifically teenagers and children.
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James argued that social media companies like Meta are to blame for the record-level poor mental health of kids and teenagers, as they intentionally design platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted and lower their self-esteem.

The big picture: The lawsuit follows newspaper reports based on Meta’s own research, which found that Instagram can cause harm to mental health and body image issues, especially in teenage girls.

  • Social media platforms are nearly universal among teens in the U.S., with almost all teens aged 13 to 17 reporting using a social media platform, according to Pew Research Center.
  • Social media companies have implemented measures to address concerns about children’s mental health, but they are easily circumvented, leading to the need for legal action.
  • In May, the U.S. Surgeon General called for immediate action to protect kids from the harms of social media.

The other side: Meta claims to share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing safe experiences for teens online and has introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.

What they’re saying: “Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “With today’s lawsuit, we are drawing the line.”

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