The attorneys general of 41 US states and Washington, DC have recently filed a federal lawsuit against Instagram and its parent company Meta. The lawsuit accuses the popular social media platform of playing a significant role in the ongoing mental health crisis among young people. The legal complaint, which was filed in federal court in California, claims that Meta has utilized powerful technologies to entice and engage young users, ultimately putting them at risk for mental health issues. The motive behind these actions, according to the complaint, is solely profit.
The lawsuit further alleges that Meta intentionally encourages compulsive social media use by implementing various methods to ensure that users spend as much time as possible on the platform. This is particularly concerning, as Meta is aware that young people are more susceptible to seeking approval from their peers through likes and engagement on their online content.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the signatories of the lawsuit, stated, “Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable.”
The lawsuit also claims that Meta has employed deceptive tactics to hide the potential dangers of its product, thereby violating consumer protection laws. Moreover, Meta is accused of collecting data on children under the age of 13, which violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Meta responded to the lawsuit by expressing disappointment in the attorneys general and their approach, suggesting that they should have instead worked collaboratively with industry companies to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the apps that teenagers use. The company also highlighted that it has already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.
It is worth noting that Meta, along with other social media companies, is already facing numerous lawsuits in the United States from families and school districts regarding the negative impact of its platforms on young individuals. However, the recently filed lawsuits represent the largest legal action taken to date.
Earlier this year, a lawsuit was initiated by lawyers representing over 100 families in the US against various social media companies, including Meta, Snapchat, and TikTok. The lawsuit claims that these platforms have caused harm to young people. This case is currently ongoing.
In a separate incident, a Russian court banned Facebook and Instagram in the country, labeling their parent company Meta as “extremist.” Moscow’s security services accused Meta of promoting an “alternative reality” where hatred for Russians was fueled and claimed that the social network was spreading false narratives about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The allegations against Meta and Instagram in the US lawsuit shed light on the pervasive influence of social media on young people’s mental health. As the litigation proceeds, it remains to be seen how the court will address these concerning claims and what impact it may have on the social media industry as a whole. The outcome of these lawsuits could potentially shape the future of social media regulations and the responsibilities of these platforms towards their young users.