Thirty-three U.S. states are suing Meta Platforms Inc., accusing it of damaging young people’s mental health through the addictive nature of their social media platforms.
The suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Oakland, California, alleges Meta knowingly installed addictive features on its social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook, and has collected data on children younger than 13, without their parents’ consent, violating federal law.
“Research has shown that young people’s use of Meta’s social media platforms is associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life, and many other negative outcomes,” the complaint says.
The filing comes after Meta’s own research in 2021 found that the company was aware of the damage Instagram can do to teenagers, especially girls.
In Meta’s 2021 study, 13.5% of teen girls said Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls said it makes eating disorders worse.
Meta responded to the lawsuit by saying it has “already introduced over 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,” the company added.
Meta is one of many social media companies facing criticism and legal action, with lawsuits also filed against ByteDance’s TikTok and Google’s YouTube.
Measures to protect children on social media exist, but they are easily circumvented, such as a federal law that bans kids under 13 from setting up accounts.
The dangers of social media for children have been highlighted by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who said the effects of social media require “immediate action to protect kids now.”
In addition to the 33 states suing, nine more state attorneys general are expected to join and file similar lawsuits.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.