The lawsuit alleges that parent company Meta knew they were luring kids into addictive, compulsive social media use
A bipartisan group of attorneys general from 41 states and the District of Columbia are suing Instagram and Facebook’s parent company, Meta, charging that the social networks are deliberately addictive — and knowingly harming children’s mental health.
"Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens," the complaint, filed Tuesday from 33 states in an Oakland, Calif., federal court, said, according to Reuters.
Eight states, including Washington D.C., filed separately, The Washington Post reported.
With features like infinite scroll and notifications, sites like Instagram are deliberately designed to keep young people engaged — and coming back for more, the AGs charge in their lawsuit, CNBC says.
Meta’s “motive is profit,” alleges the lawsuit, which seeks civil penalties, among other consequences, for Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth social media company.
This past May, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a landmark advisory regarding the impact of social media, saying that it can “have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”
“In early adolescence, when identities and sense of self-worth are forming, brain development is especially susceptible to social pressures, peer opinions and peer comparison,” the advisory said. “Our children have become unknowing participants in a decades-long experiment.”
According to another lawsuit in March, Meta’s product teams were actively trying to increase the number of times people accessed their platforms. In that filing, the Los Angeles Times reported that one Meta employee wrote “No one wakes up thinking they want to maximize the number of times they open Instagram that day…But that’s exactly what our product teams are trying to do.”
The March lawsuit also claimed that Meta chief Zuckerberg was personally warned about social media’s negative impacts on children.
While both Facebook and Instagram’s terms of service dictate that someone must be at least 13 years old before signing up for an account, the new lawsuit also alleges that Meta collected personal data from children under 13 without parental consent, which violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), CNBC reports.
Meta hasn’t replied to PEOPLE’s request for comment — and hasn’t publicly commented yet on the lawsuit. However, in March a spokesperson said, “We actually increased funding, shown by the over 30 tools we offer to support teens and families,” the spokesperson said.
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