Facebook and Instagram sued by multiple states for damaging children’s mental health

Embed from Getty Images
Two years ago, a brave woman named Frances Haugen came forward to blow the whistle on her former employer, Meta. Her tale as old as time was that Meta deliberately chooses profit over everything else, including users’ safety and mental health. Among the things she revealed were that Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018 to become more politically divisive, leading it to help stoke the fires that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and that they knew through internal research that Instagram could have negative effects on users, especially young users.

On Tuesday, a total of 41 state attorneys general filed lawsuits against Meta, alleging that Instagram and Facebook are knowingly harmful to young people’s mental health and designed to be addictive. The group was bipartisan and the states have been investigating Meta since Haugen’s allegations in 2021. 33 states filed one big suit and eight additional states filed individual ones. In addition to deliberately designing Instagram and Facebook features to addict children to its platforms, the lawsuits also claim that Meta regularly collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, which violates federal law.

“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.

[From People]

It’s so infuriating. I don’t know what to say other than Meta is bad. F– them. I just finished watching The Fall of the House of Usher, and right now I am in a whole mood about big corporations and the evil people running them who only care about making money. (BTW, it’s a fantastic series, and I am dying to talk about it.) Anyway, I largely decreased my presence on Facebook in 2020 because seeing family, friends, and neighbors spread Covid lies (remember “plandemic,” ugh?) and worship Trump was making me physically ill. It really took a toll on my mental health, so I bowed out. I go through phases with Instagram, but I know a lot of people in my age group that now use that as their primary form of social media.

I absolutely see how both platforms are addictive, though, especially to children. Last week, I talked about how we have to strictly limit my kids’ screen time because of how it affects their behavior. Kids are so impressionable, too, which makes what Meta is doing all the more despicable. It’s just like how Phillip Morris inserted cigarettes into tv and movies, Meta is doing the same, adjusted for 2023 vices. My older son will actively quote advertisements and commercials he sees when he plays games or watches YouTube. Just this evening, when I muted commercials during Survivor he protested. I did one of those, “Back in my day, commercials were annoying and streaming media services want to now charge us more by enticing us with ad-free versions of things!” But as the words left my mouth, the Travis Kelce Pfizer commercial aired, and it felt like the Universe Raven (IFKYK) was mocking me. All jokes aside, I think we’ve all seen firsthand just how addictive social media can be for grown-ups. It is great to keep up with/let people know what’s going on with you in a blanketed way. We enjoy how we feel when we see that someone has liked, or commented on our social media posts, but just like most vices that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. It’s absolutely f–ing disgusting that these corporations would target children just so they can ensnare a whole new generation of customers. I hope they burn.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

10 Responses to “Facebook and Instagram sued by multiple states for damaging children’s mental health”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. ThatsNotOkay says:

    Money should not be the only consequence: a complete redesign of their algorithm and restrictions on how it targets youth AND TEENS is a MUST! That goes for ALLL SOCIAL MEDIA, including Twitter, TikTok, etc. I hope parents are listening and ban ALL OF IT from their homes. It really has been the worst and most detrimental invention in recent history, when it comes to anyone’s mental health, next to 24-hour news cycles. The world needs to UNPLUG and unengage if we are going to survive. This is not an exaggeration.

  2. Linabear says:

    It’s absolutely true. I’m a teacher and we can no longer do things like honor students of recognition in the hallways because students have meltdowns if unedited and uncurated photos of them are shown in public; their self image issues are so extreme. This is 100% due to the effects of Facebook and Instagram.

  3. Digital Unicorn says:

    SM is the centre of the world for children and young adults – it has not only had an effect on their MH but their social and communication skills. In a previous job we had interns (around 17 to 20) who spent most of their time communicating with each other via instant messaging or were constantly on their phones – there was very little physical/spoken interaction even thou there were all sat together.

    Living on SM also creates an unrealistic bubble/perception of reality – they are too busy interacting with this virtual world that they are not engaged with the real world around them which doesn’t bode well when they go into the real world and interact with people who don’t think like them or have the same opinions.

    Not all kids are like this but they are very heavily influenced by what they see online.

  4. FancyPants says:

    Apologies if this sounds dumb, but what are “civil penalties, among other consequences?” What can they do to a company with that much money that doesn’t care what we think? I quit Facebook (the only social media I had) in 2018 and I have never looked back, but I had to physically and mentally wean myself off of it like a drug. No exaggeration- I had to limit myself to checking it only once an hour, then only 3 times a day, then only once a day, had to delete it off my phone so then I could only check it if I went upstairs to sign in on my desktop… It took several weeks, and then after I “fully” deactivated it, there was a two week period where you can sign back in and save your account and I practically had to get somebody to sit on me to stop me from doing that! THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR US.

  5. Chantal says:

    This is great news. I hope XTwitter is next bc the disinformation highway on that platform is next level. I had already decreased my time on Insta and XTwitter years ago and had self-banned Facebook and I still spend a lot of time on sm. Zuckerberg really effed up when he knowingly invaded children’s privacy. That was stupidly illegal and will likely cost him with 33 attorneys general going after his companies. I wish these AGs would find a way to go after gun manufacturers since our politicians refuse to act and making and/or losing money is the only language these greedy corporations understand.

  6. Sean says:

    This is great news!

    Even though the lawsuit focuses on the effects social media’s had on children, it’s also negatively impacted all age groups as well as every facet of society.

    Sometimes I feel like I barely recognize my boomer parents because of what SM has done to their personalities.

  7. Sass says:

    As a grown woman who has been the target multiple times of online harassment, doxxing, and stalking, I have significantly cut down on my sm presence and taken extreme steps to scrub my legal name and contact info from the internet. Like I’ve had men on Nextdoor solicit me for sex and Nextdoor did nothing. I had a woman get mad at me in a local Facebook group so she doxxed me and texted me from a spoof number to send me a photo of my home and tell me not to be such a c-nt or something might happen to me. The cops did NOTHING even though we had proof of who was doing it. Two of several examples. Our ninth grader only recently got a smartphone and that was only bc some jackass kid stole her crappy Nokia and a neighbor was nice enough to give her their old 6s. That thing is locked down. We have to keep all electronics in our room so our kids aren’t up until 2am watching YouTube videos. The tv has a parental lock on it. No social media. I know it isn’t possible for everyone to eschew a smartphone for their kids but I’m just glad we had been able to avoid it for so long. Our daughter had felt like her friends were “leaving her behind” in fifth grade because she still loved playing with dolls and stuff like that and her peers were all on TikTok etc. but I reminded her that her real friends will like her for who she is and not pressure her into uncomfortable or unsafe scenarios. We have quite a few years left before college but as of now I’m just grateful our kids aren’t fighting us about social media access…bc they ain’t getting it anytime soon, and this is exactly why.

    ETA I downloaded my entire history from Facebook and IG. I still use IG but sparingly – it’s always been private and I use it as a digital photo album. But I just stopped going on Facebook one day and don’t miss it. It’s been two years.

    • Sass says:

      Adding this: based on my experiences I definitely think SM brings out the worst of people. Because that woman who doxxed me etc., well, I see her every day when we are both picking up our kids from an after school activity. She volunteers regularly etc. people think she’s this lovely, Christian woman. They would never believe she would do something like this. I could so easily ruin her reputation. She also actually has no idea what I look like, but I know what she looks like. It’s wild to see this POS in real life acting like fckin Pollyanna knowing what she did to me all because she disagreed with a comment I made. These suburban moms need less social media and more hobbies outside of carpooling for their kids. Fix it Jesus!

    • teehee says:

      I stopped FB cold turkey about 5 years ago.
      My reason was- people being intentionally stupid and intentioanlly aggressive, which is not allowed in “reality”- but it is allowed online and it just became so blatantly obvious that SM is a stupidity factory.
      Why waste your time in such a place, with such actions and intentions of others against you?

      My analogy is as follows:
      If you post the question “what is 2+2?” on the internet, you will get hundreds of false replies, you will be mocked, told you are an idiot, and you will get a heap of political, racial and sexual slurs thrown at you.

      If you walk up to someone on the street and ask them “excsue me, what is 2+2?” they will simply tell you “4” and that’s the end of it.

      Social media make people into complete idiots.

  8. bisynaptic says:

    Team AGs.