A group of 33 states, including California and New York, is suing Meta Platforms Inc for harming the mental health of young people and contributing to a youth mental health crisis over deliberately designed features on Instagram and Facebook that lure children onto its platforms.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, also alleges that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without parental consent, in violation of federal law.
“Children and young adults are experiencing record levels of poor mental health, and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Meta has capitalized on children's pain by deliberately designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”
The wide-ranging lawsuit is the result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont. This follows scathing newspaper reports, first reported by The Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2021, based on Meta's own research, which found that the company was aware of the harm Instagram could cause to teenagers, especially teenage girls, when it comes to Relates to mental health and body. Image problems. One domestic study found that 13.5% of teenage girls say Instagram makes suicidal thoughts worse, and 17% of teenage girls say it makes eating disorders worse.
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After the first reports, a consortium of news organizations, including the Associated Press, published their own findings based on leaked documents from whistleblower Francis Haugen, who testified before Congress and a British parliamentary committee about what he found.
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Social media use among teenagers is almost universal in the US and many other parts of the world. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of 13- to 17-year-olds in the US report using a social media platform, and more than a third say they use social media “almost constantly.”
To comply with federal regulations, social media companies prohibit children under the age of 13 from registering on their platforms, but children have been shown to easily circumvent the bans, with or without parental consent, and many young children have social media accounts.
Other measures that social platforms have taken to address concerns about children's mental health are also easily circumvented. For example, 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 continue watching.
In May, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy urged tech companies, parents and educators to take “immediate action to protect children now” from the dangers of social media.
&Copy 2023 Canadian Press