Bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general is suing Meta for harming youth

A bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Meta in the Northern District of California on Tuesday, alleging that the social media company is harming young people’s mental health.

According to the lawsuit, Meta targeted its products, including the social media platform Facebook, to young users while knowingly designing the features to be “psychologically and physically harmful to young users” and to promote “compulsive, prolonged, and unhealthy use.”

Those features include algorithms to keep users on the platform, social comparison features such as “likes,” visual products such as filters that promote body dysmorphia, and user experience tools like the “infinite scroll” design, the suit says. The complaint also alleges that Meta has published “profoundly misleading public reports” with the intention of underplaying the effects of its platform. 

“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. “Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis, and they must be held accountable.”

The lawsuit is seeking to enjoin the harmful practices and demands damages, restitution, and other compensation. 

A federal lawsuit from 2023 alleged that engineers and senior Meta leadership, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, knew about the harms of social media, with some employees expressing misgivings about the impact of their products. Plaintiffs included school districts as well as local and state governments. 

In January 2022, James led a multistate bipartisan coalition of 48 attorneys general to fight the company’s alleged efforts to “stifle competition and protect its monopoly power.” The lawsuit also comes on the heels of several studies, including research conducted by Meta, that demonstrates links between social media usage and psychological and physical harms. 

In addition to the federal lawsuit, nine attorneys general also filed in their own state courts, with a total of 42 state attorneys general taking action against the social media giant on Tuesday. 

In a statement, a Meta spokesperson said:

“We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced more than 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.”

This story is developing and will continue to be updated.

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