Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has joined a coalition of 33 states in a groundbreaking federal lawsuit filed against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Meta knowingly designed its social media platforms to be addictive to children and teenagers while falsely assuring the public that these platforms were safe for young users.
The complaint, spearheaded by a bipartisan group of attorneys general, asserts that Meta’s business practices flagrantly violate state consumer protection laws and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Additionally, the lawsuit contends that these practices exacerbate what the U.S. Surgeon General has described as a “youth mental health crisis.”
Attorney General Bailey expressed his firm commitment to safeguarding the well-being of children, stating, “The last thing we need is for Big Tech giants to make a profit at the expense of our children’s health. We will use every legal tool at our disposal to protect children across the nation.”
The complaint is based on a wealth of evidence, including confidential proprietary materials and public sources. Former Meta employees have also provided key details that underscore the allegations. Notably, the lawsuit alleges that Meta was aware of young users, including children under 13, actively engaging with their platforms and that the company collected data from these users without obtaining parental consent. Furthermore, Meta was accused of directly targeting these young users.
At the core of the 233-page complaint are Meta’s practices that promote addiction, depriving children of much-needed sleep and interfering with their education. The complaint states that features such as near-constant alerts and infinite scrolling were intentionally designed to addict young people, undermining their physical and mental health. Meta’s platform algorithms allegedly lead users down “rabbit holes,” keeping them glued to the platform for extended periods.
The lawsuit asserts that Meta’s deliberate use of manipulative tactics, like infinite scrolling and constant alerts, entices teens and tweens to repeatedly return to the platforms. Rather than addressing the harm caused by these features and implementing meaningful changes to mitigate the damage, Meta publicly marketed its platforms as safe for young users.
This legal action represents a significant move in the ongoing debate surrounding the influence of tech giants on children and teenagers. The lawsuit seeks to hold Meta accountable for what is perceived as a direct threat to the well-being of the youngest users of social media platforms. As the case unfolds, it may have far-reaching implications for the regulation of tech companies and the protection of young people on digital platforms.