Meta sued by over 30 US states for features designed to lure children to Instagram, Facebook

In a shocking move, more than 30 US States, including California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and others, have filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms over the allegations of using features in Instagram and Facebook to lure children to the platform and get them hooked on harmful content. The lawsuit also alleges that Meta also exploited minors for its own profit. The lawsuit is the latest in the growing scrutiny of social media platforms over how they treat the youth and safeguarding measures to protect them from harmful content.

The lawsuit has been filed in the northern district of the State of California in the District Court, as per a report by The New York Times. The case will now assess whether Meta, which is the parent company behind social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp violated consumer protection laws by unfairly endangering children and misleading users about the standard of safety on the platforms. The District of Columbia and eight additional states individually filed lawsuits against Meta, primarily asserting similar allegations.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” lawyers for the States said in the lawsuit. “Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its social media platforms.”

Meta gets sued over exploitative features for children

Meta said in a statement that it’s committed to keeping teens safe online and has introduced more than 30 tools to support youths 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.

The focus on the dangers and exploitation of the youth on social media platforms first surfaced in 2021 when the former Meta employee Frances Haugen came out as a whistleblower and highlighted with documents about internal operations that the company was knowingly preying on its younger user base for profits.

Haugen revealed an internal study at Instagram which found evidence that many adolescent girls using the photo-sharing app were suffering from depression and anxiety around body-image issues. Haugen’s testimony to Congress is cited in Tuesday’s complaint.

However, this is not the first lawsuit around the issue for Meta, and Meta is not the only company to face such a lawsuit. Other tech companies that have products and services for children such as Snap, TikTok, and Google, combined together face hundreds of lawsuits that allege that these companies are responsible for minors suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other psychological traumas that arose from social media addiction. These companies have also received multiple complaints from schools on behalf of students regarding the same.

The companies had said they are offering more resources to support young users online and argued that the lawsuits improperly seek to regulate content.

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