Meta, the parent company that oversees Facebook and Instagram, sued over harm to young people’s mental health . It stands accused of deliberately misleading the public regarding the potential risks associated with social media use. This has allegedly contributed to a mental health crisis among young people. This legal claim emerged through a federal lawsuit, jointly announced by numerous U.S. states. They contend that the corporation utilized addictive features to lure in users while concealing the substantial risks associated with its platforms.
Meta, the parent company of Instagram, expressed its deep disappointment regarding the mental health allegations outlined in the lawsuit. Subsequently, the legal action contends that Meta not only violated consumer protection laws by engaging in deceptive practices but also illicitly collected data from children under the age of 13, thus breaching its obligations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
In light of this, the lawsuit has garnered substantial support from New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is among 33 attorneys general endorsing this legal action. Moreover, nine other states have independently filed lawsuits with similar claims. In response, Meta released a statement that reinforces its commitment to delivering a safe and positive online experience for teenagers. The company underlined that it has already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families. However, Meta expressed disappointment that the attorneys general opted for litigation rather than collaborating to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the apps used by teenagers.
Lawsuits in the U.S.
Meta, along with other social media firms, is already facing numerous lawsuits in the U.S., brought by families, young individuals, and school districts seeking accountability for the impact on mental health. This lawsuit represents the most significant legal action to date.
This legal action follows an investigation conducted in 2021 by several state prosecutors. It was prompted by a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who testified in the U.S. that Meta was aware of the potential harm its products could cause to children. Although Meta disputes claims that Instagram is detrimental to the mental health of young people, substantial research indicates that excessive social media use can have adverse effects on the mental health of youth.
In the UK, an inquiry into the tragic death of Molly Russell concluded that she succumbed to the negative consequences of online content. As a result, the states involved in the lawsuit are actively pursuing financial compensation and an injunction to halt Meta’s alleged harmful practices.
Although substantial portions of the lawsuit remain confidential, it explicitly pinpoints features such as likes, alerts, and filters as components recognized for their potential to exacerbate body dysmorphia among young users. Body dysmorphia involves individuals obsessively fixating on perceived flaws in their appearance, often invisible to others.
The lawsuit further contends that Meta’s design choices and practices not only exploit but also contribute to the vulnerability of young users to addiction.