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State AGs in lawsuit: Meta ‘presents a new and unique danger to our children’

Chris Graham
phone showing social media comments
(© terovesalainen – stock.adobe.com)

Meta is facing lawsuits filed in state and federal courts this week alleging that the social media giant’s platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, are operating in violation of state consumer protection laws and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

A federal suit filed in a California federal court cites a Surgeon General advisory that called attention to the “growing concerns about the effects of social media on youth mental health” and deemed the extensive social media usage by children and teens a “youth mental health crisis.”

“Virginians agree that social media presents a new and unique danger to our children. Users know that platforms like Instagram are addicting, especially to children. It’s obvious. But this addictive nature goes beyond just distracting our youth,” Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a statement issued by his office on Tuesday.

“It’s harmful, has real-world implications, and Meta has been flat out disingenuous to the American people. This lawsuit is about holding big corporations that prioritize financial gain over our children’s wellbeing accountable,” Miyares said.

The federal complaint alleges that Meta knew of the harmful impact of its platforms on young people, knew that young users, including those under 13, were active on the platforms, and knowingly collected data from these users without parental consent.

The complaint also details how Meta profited through algorithms that push users into descending “rabbit holes” in an effort to maximize engagement.

Features like infinite scroll and near-constant alerts were created with the express goal of hooking young users. As Aza Raskin, the original developer of the infinite scroll concept, noted to the BBC about the feature’s addictive qualities: “If you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your impulses, … you just keep scrolling.”

Per the state and federal complaints, Meta knew these addictive features harmed young people’s physical and mental health, including undermining their ability to get adequate sleep, but did not disclose the harm nor did they make meaningful changes to minimize the harm.

Instead, the AGs allege, Meta claimed its platforms were safe for young users.

Meta offered this in response to the suit later in the day on Tuesday:

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

 

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].