Dozens of US states sue Meta, say it harmed mental health of teens

NEW DELHI: Several US states on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, accusing the tech giant of harming children’s health and ignoring sweeping damage for the sake of profit.
“In seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its Social Media Platforms,” the suit, filed in a federal court in California, said.
The suit also accused the Mark Zuckerberg-led company of contributing the youth mental health crisis by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms.
The added that Meta routinely collected data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, which is 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.”
The lawsuit has been filed by as many as 33 states.
Moreover, 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.”
Meanwhile, in a statement, Meta said that 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 lawsuit was filed following investigative reports by The Wall Street Journal and whistleblower Frances Haugen, revealing Meta’s knowledge of Instagram’s detrimental effects on teen mental health.
Studies show Instagram worsened suicidal thoughts in 13.5% of teen girls and eating disorders in 17%.
Social media’s near-universal use among US teens, despite regulations, raises concerns.
Measures to protect children’s mental health, like TikTok’s time limit, can be bypassed. US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy has urged tech companies and caregivers to safeguard children from social media harm.
(With inputs from agencies)

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