Why 42 States Came Together to Sue Meta Over Kids’ Mental Health

Kids’ Mental Health

A coalition of 33 states, including California, Colorado, New York, Arizona, and Illinois, has filed a lawsuit against Meta. They allege that the company violated state and federal laws in its efforts to attract young users in the United States and keep them engaged on Facebook and Instagram. The lawsuit asserts that Meta harnessed powerful technologies to entice and ensnare youth for profit.

Additionally, nine individual state attorneys general, along with the District of Columbia, have launched separate suits, all making similar claims about Meta’s deceptive practices concerning its young users.

Alleged Violations

The lawsuit points to several ways in which Meta is accused of violating laws meant to protect young consumers. These include maximizing the time and attention of children on its platforms, using addictive product design while downplaying risks to kids, and disregarding research that suggests social media platforms can harm young users. Some claims about Facebook and Instagram’s negative effects on children are redacted in the lawsuit.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta highlighted the evidence linking excessive social media use to sleep problems, attention issues, and feelings of exclusion among young people. He accused Meta of not only disregarding these dangers but also lying to users, parents, and the public.

Legal Basis and Regulatory Vacuum

The lawsuit argues that Meta violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting data from users under 13 without parental consent for Kids’ Mental Health. It also alleges that Meta’s business practices targeting young users breach state consumer protection laws.

The tech industry trade group Chamber of Progress countered the lawsuit’s claims, asserting that social media’s impact on kids and teens has a positive influence. Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich argued that large-scale studies do not support the idea that social media is the driving force behind negative Kids’ Mental Health trends among teens.

Potential Settlement

Legal experts suggest that the state attorneys general may be seeking a settlement rather than a courtroom victory. A settlement could compel Meta to make policy changes to mitigate the harms described in the lawsuit. Such a settlement could set a precedent for the entire industry.

The lawsuit’s bipartisan support reflects a shared goal of protecting children from the potential negative aspects of social media. Regardless of Meta’s response, the optics of a major battle between the social media giant and a coalition of U.S. states over children’s safety may be difficult for Meta to manage.

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