Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives in federal court in San Jose, California on December 20, 2022.
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The bipartisan group is suing 33 attorneys general Meta because of its addictive properties intended for children and adults, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in California federal court. Support from multiple state AGs of various political backgrounds points to a significant legal challenge for meth's business.
The lawsuit represents the company's latest legal challenge and is another demonstration of the bipartisan priority state law enforcement has placed on protecting children and teens from online harm.
It's also not the first time a broad coalition of state AGs has banded together to go after Meta. In 2020, 48 states and territories sued the company on antitrust grounds, along with a separate complaint by the Federal Trade Commission.
Meta designed Facebook and Instagram products to get younger users to stay on them for longer and return time and time again, the AGs argued. According to the federal complaint, Meta did this through the design of its algorithms, abundant alerts, notifications and so-called infinite scrolling through the platform's channels. The company also includes features that AGs argue negatively impact adolescent mental health by promoting social comparison or body dysmorphia, such as “likes” or photo filters.
The federal lawsuit also accuses Meta of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from users under 13 without parental consent.
States try to end what they consider to be harmful meta-practices, as well as fines and restitution.
Meta was well aware of the negative effect its design could have on young consumers, the AG argued.
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen sparked an uproar among lawmakers and parents in 2021 after leaking internal company documents that revealed internal research into its products. One set of papers on the effects of Instagram on teenagers found that “Thirty-two percent of teenage girls said that when they feel bad about their bodies, Instagram makes them feel worse.” The Wall Street Journal reported before Haugen revealed his identity. Following the report, Instagram said it was working on ways to prevent users from thinking about negative topics.
Several of the practices that AGs focus on for Meta are similar to those implemented by other social media businesses, such as developing an algorithm to keep users engaged.
Among the states that have filed suit are California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin.
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