(WKBN) – Ohio Attorney General David Yost and Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry are joining other attorneys general in the U.S. in a lawsuit against Facebook’s parent company Meta.
Yost and Henry are joining 32 other states that are suing the social media giant, saying that the platform’s technology deployed harmful features for Facebook and Instagram to addict young users to its platforms and enhance its bottom line.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The lawsuit says that Meta did nothing to mitigate its harmful effects on youth and in fact concealed the severity of the psychological harm it causes, including addiction to the platforms, which could, and in some cases did, result in physical harm, Yost said.
“Given that children, when they’re on these platforms, become vulnerable to cyberbullying and online predators, Meta has added insult to injury, further injuring our children,” Yost said. “I trust that the parents within Meta itself might reconsider these practices, but, until then, initiating lawsuits should compel the company to change its ways.”
The complaint goes on to say that Meta even violated federal law, specifically the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, by knowing that children under 13 years old were actively on its platform, and it was collecting data from them without their parent’s consent — even calling the users “valuable but untapped,” according to Yost.
“The time has come for social media giants to stop trading in our children’s mental health for big profits,” Henry said. “According to the lawsuit, Meta not only targets young minds with addictive, harmful, trap-door content – it also lies to the public and parents about how their platforms are safe. Creators have built multi-billion dollar empires by promoting a click-bait culture that is psychologically hurting kids.”
Yost said that Meta employees described how the company deliberately sought to gain financially by addicting teens and tweens to its platforms with an algorithm that descends users into “rabbit holes” with the goal of keeping them on the platform for long periods of time.
Other allegations in the complaint say that Meta serviced up harmful content to users around such issues as eating disorders, violence, negative self-perception and body image and bullying.
Florida is filing its own similar lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
The impact of social media on America’s youth is so profound that the American Academy of Pediatrics formed the Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health. The center stipulates that imbalances in the benefits and risks of social media use can harm mental health, exacerbate existing health disparities and compound systemic inequities for young people.