Facebook’s parent company Meta has landed itself in legal hot water, after allegedly targeting kids with the features of its apps. Here’s the full story.
Features Made To Be Addictive
A bipartisan group of 33 attorneys general has filed a lawsuit against Meta, alleging that the company’s addictive features, particularly those aimed at kids and teens, pose a threat.
This legal action underscores the growing concern among state law enforcers about safeguarding young internet users from harm, and it signifies a substantial legal challenge to Meta’s business.
Not Their First Rodeo
This lawsuit isn’t the first time a coalition of state attorneys general has taken on Meta. In 2020, 48 states and territories and a separate complaint from the Federal Trade Commission sued the company on antitrust grounds.
Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?
Now, the focus is on the allegedly harmful design and practices related to Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta, that entice young users to stay longer and return frequently.
The attorneys general contend that Meta accomplished this by designing algorithms, deploying numerous alerts and notifications, and implementing infinite scrolling through platform feeds.
The lawsuit also points to features, such as “likes” and photo filters, that are believed to negatively affect teenagers’ mental health by promoting social comparison and body dysmorphia.
The Kids Aren’t Alright
The prevalence of social media engagement among adolescents is almost ubiquitous in the United States and numerous other parts of the world.
In the U.S. an astonishing 95% of young people aged 13 to 17 confirm their use of social media platforms, with over a third indicating that they are active on social media “almost continuously,” as per data from the Pew Research Center.
Meta is to Blame
New York Attorney General Letitia James firmly pointed out the concerning state of mental health among kids and teenagers, emphasizing the responsibility of social media companies like Meta.
She stated, “Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health, and social media companies like Meta are to blame.”
In response to the allegations, Meta expressed its alignment with the commitment of the attorneys general to ensure that teenagers have safe and positive experiences in the online realm.
The company cited its efforts in introducing more than 30 tools designed to support teenagers and their families.
We’re Disappointed We’re Being Sued
Meta stated, “We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path.”
Sucking Up Data From Kids
More significantly, Meta is accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from users under 13 without obtaining parental consent.
The legal action seeks to end what is perceived as harmful practices by Meta while also pursuing penalties and restitution.
The lawsuit argues that Meta was well aware of the detrimental effects its design could have on young users.
This claim is reinforced by the revelations of former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, who leaked internal documents in 2021.
You Should Feel Bad
Her disclosures showed that internal research indicated that Instagram was making a significant number of teenage girls feel worse about their bodies.
Following the public outcry, Instagram announced efforts to reduce the focus on negative topics.
Meta Isn’t the Only Culprit
Many practices targeted in the lawsuit against Meta, such as algorithm design to keep users engaged, are standard across social media platforms.
The lawsuit signifies a joint effort by states to hold Meta accountable for its practices and protect young internet users. Among the states participating in the lawsuit are California, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin.
“Fine Him Billions”
This bipartisan legal challenge has led to an outcry online, with some users speaking out in favor of the changes.
One such comment read, “Every organization, company, group will target kids to get them hooked on whatever they are selling, pushing and advocating. They took their lead from tobacco companies.”
Another post read, “Fine him Billions, it is intentional.”
Blame The Parents
Others online believed the parents were to blame, with one widely shared post reading, “How about parents not allowing their children to be on any social media platforms? No one, at least under the age of 18, should be on social media.”
Another said, “Do parents not take responsibility for anything their children do?”
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