Meta Accused Of Targeting Youth With Addictive Features In Bipartisan Attorneys General Suit

Zinger Key Points
  • 42 attorneys general sue Meta over addictive features targeting youth.
  • Internal documents reveal Meta knew products could harm young users.

In a major legal move, 42 attorneys general from various political backgrounds have united to file a lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc META. The suit alleges that the company's features on its Facebook and Instagram platforms are not only addictive, but are also specifically targeted at younger users.

What Happened: Meta is grappling with multiple legal challenges across different jurisdictions. While 33 state attorneys general, including those from states like California, New York and Wisconsin, have launched a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of California, nine others are pursuing legal action within their respective states, CNBC reports.

This isn't the first instance of state attorneys general coming together against Meta. The company faced antitrust lawsuits in 2020 from 48 states and territories, in addition to a separate complaint from the Federal Trade Commission.

The crux of the allegations unleashed Tuesday is that Meta intentionally designed its platforms to retain young users for extended periods, according to CNBC. The design elements under scrutiny include algorithm-driven content, incessant notifications and the "infinite scroll" feature.

Features like "likes" and image filters, which could potentially harm teens' mental well-being, are also under the lens.

Also Read: Instagram Issues 'Sincere' Apology After Accidentally Labeling Some Palestinian User Profiles As 'Terrorist'

The federal lawsuit highlights Meta's alleged breach of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The company is accused of unlawfully collecting data from users below 13 years of age without obtaining parental consent. The states are not only seeking an end to these practices, but also demanding penalties and restitution, CNBC reports.

In response, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone indicated the company was "disappointed" in the legal route chosen by the attorneys general and emphasized the Meta's commitment to ensuring a safe online environment for teens.

Why It Matters: Despite public denials, internal documents suggest that Meta was cognizant of the potential harm its platforms could inflict on young users. According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, "Meta’s own internal research documents show its awareness that its products harm young users." This revelation became public when former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked internal documents in 2021, highlighting the negative impact of Instagram on teens.

Now Read: Mark Zuckerberg's Threads Now Lets You Edit Posts, And Won't Charge You For It Like Elon Musk's X

This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Photo: Shutterstock. 

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Posted In: NewsSocial MediaLegalTop StoriesTechGeneralAI GeneratedFrances HaugenLetitia James
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