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Bipartisan Group of Attorneys General Sue Meta Over Addictive Features Targeting Kids and Teens

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Bipartisan Group of Attorneys General Sues Meta Over Addictive Features Targeting Kids and Teens

A bipartisan group of 42 attorneys general has filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, over addictive features aimed at children and teenagers. This legal action, announced on Tuesday, signifies a significant challenge to Meta’s business and has garnered support from attorneys general across different political backgrounds.

Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against Meta

Meta is now facing multiple lawsuits related to this issue in various districts. Attorneys general from 33 states have filed a federal lawsuit against Meta in the Northern District of California, while an additional 9 attorneys general are filing their own suits in their respective states. This information was disclosed in a press release from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.

Protecting Kids and Teens from Online Harm

These lawsuits reflect the bipartisan commitment of state law enforcement officials to prioritize the protection of children and teenagers from online harm.

Previous Legal Action Against Meta

This is not the first time that a broad coalition of state attorneys general has come together to take action against Meta. In 2020, 48 states and territories sued the company on antitrust grounds, alongside a separate complaint from the Federal Trade Commission.

Allegations Against Meta’s Design and Practices

The attorneys general allege that Meta intentionally designed its Facebook and Instagram platforms to keep young users engaged for longer periods and to encourage repeated usage. They claim that Meta achieved this through the design of algorithms, numerous alerts and notifications, and the use of infinite scrolling in platform feeds. The AGs also argue that certain features, such as “likes” and photo filters, negatively impact teenagers’ mental health by promoting social comparison and body dysmorphia.

Violation of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

In addition to the harm caused by its design practices, Meta is accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from users under the age of 13 without obtaining parental consent.

Objective of the Lawsuits

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The attorneys general are seeking an end to what they perceive as Meta’s harmful practices, as well as penalties and restitution.

Internal Awareness of Harmful Effects

The attorneys general argue that Meta was well aware of the negative effects its design could have on young users. They point to leaked internal research documents, commissioned by Meta itself, that revealed the company’s awareness of the serious harms associated with young users’ time spent on its platforms.

Impact of Internal Document Leak

In 2021, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked internal documents from the company, causing uproar among lawmakers and parents. The leaked documents included research on Instagram’s impact on teenagers, revealing that a significant percentage of teen girls felt worse about their bodies when using the platform. Instagram responded to the findings by working on methods to divert users’ attention away from negative topics.

Similar Practices in the Social Media Industry

Many of the practices highlighted by the attorneys general in their case against Meta are also exercised by other social media companies, including the use of algorithms to keep users engaged.

Meta’s Response

In response to the lawsuits, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone expressed disappointment, stating that the company shares the attorneys general’s commitment to providing safe experiences for teenagers online. He emphasized Meta’s efforts to introduce over 30 tools to support teens and their families. Stone criticized the attorneys general for not collaborating with companies in the industry to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for apps used by teenagers.

States Involved in the Lawsuit

The federal lawsuit was filed by several states, including California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Jim Cramer’s Perspective on Meta’s Performance

Jim Cramer provides insights on Meta’s performance over the past year in a video.

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