Meta Faces Lawsuit Alleging Misleading Practices and Mental Health Impact
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is facing a federal lawsuit brought by dozens of US states. The lawsuit accuses Meta of misleading the public about the risks of using social media platforms and contributing to a mental health crisis among youth. State attorneys general argue that the company utilised addictive features to engage users while concealing the substantial dangers of its platforms. The legal action alleges that Meta violated consumer protection laws by engaging in deceptive conduct.
The lawsuit also claims that Meta collected data on children under the age of 13, which would violate its obligations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. State prosecutors have been investigating Meta’s practices since 2021, triggered by whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony that the company knew its products could harm children.
According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and must be held accountable. Similar claims have been filed in nine other states. The legal action is the largest of its kind to date.
A spokesperson for Meta stated that the company is committed to providing safe, positive online experiences for teens and has introduced over 30 tools to support them and their families. The spokesperson expressed disappointment that attorneys general chose litigation rather than collaborative efforts to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps used by teens.
The lawsuit names specific features like likes, alerts, and filters, which it alleges are known to promote young users’ body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is a condition where individuals obsess over perceived flaws in their appearance, often unnoticed by others. The lawsuit contends that Meta’s design choices and practices take advantage of young users’ susceptibility to addiction.
While there is ongoing debate over whether platforms like Instagram are damaging to young people’s mental health, the lawsuit marks a significant legal challenge to Meta’s practices. The states are seeking financial damages and an end to Meta’s alleged harmful practices.
Significantly, large portions of the lawsuit remain hidden from the public eye.