New York, United States, Oct 24 (EFE). – A coalition of 41 US states and the District of Columbia sued Meta (parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) on Tuesday, arguing that its social media platforms Instagram and Facebook are addictive and harmful to children.
This lawsuit is the most significant effort by state authorities to stop the impact of social media on the mental health of minors and to force Meta to change the characteristics of its networks, which they claim are dangerous for children and younger users.
A total of 33 states, including Colorado and California, filed a joint complaint in federal court in the Northern District of California, while other attorneys general in Washington D.C. and 8 states are filing separate complaints in federal, state or local courts.
A national problem
In a joint virtual press conference, several attorneys general emphasized that social media addiction is a “national problem”.
They also highlighted that despite the political divide between Republicans and Democrats, they have been able to work together on this issue, which they compared to the fight against tobacco or opiates.
They also hinted that a similar lawsuit could be expected against the Chinese social network TikTok, but did not provide further information.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti noted that Instagram targeted its application to teenagers and children, who are more vulnerable and susceptible to this type of manipulation.
Young people’s mental health
The barrage of lawsuits is rooted in a 2021 investigation into the various ways in which the tech titan contributes to mental health problems among young people.
In 2021, the Wall Street Journal, in a report based on internal information, revealed how Instagram was exacerbating users’ negative perceptions of their bodies – particularly girls and teens – and found that the company was aware of the problem.
“While Meta has publicly denied and downplayed these harmful effects, it cannot credibly claim ignorance,” said a press release from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“Meta’s own internal research documents show its awareness that its products harm young users. ” it added.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, noted that the joint investigation found that Meta had deceived its users and put children at risk.
“Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
He also pointed out that when Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, testified before Congress, he lied when he said that Meta did not design its products to be addictive.
On the other side, Meta spokeswoman Nkechi Nneji said in a statement sent to the media that the technology giant wants to provide teens with a safe and positive online experience.
“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,” added the statement.
Since the 2021 investigation came to light, some states, such as Arkansas and Utah, have passed laws prohibiting children under 13 from accessing social media and requiring teens under 18 to get parental consent to access the sites.
California passed laws requiring technology companies to review their platforms for potential risks and problems. EFE