Dozens of U.S. states accuse Meta Platforms and its Instagram unit of knowingly inducing young children and teenagers into addictive and compulsive social media use.
The lawsuit filed by 33 states in federal court in Oakland, California, on Tuesday claims that Meta influences vulnerable consumers, like teenagers, to spend as much time as possible on social media, knowing that they are susceptible to the need for approval in the form of "likes" from other users about their content, Reuters reported.
Meta "has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens" being motivated by profit, according to the lawsuit.
The states said research has associated children's use of Meta's social media platforms with "depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life" and many other negative outcomes. As a result, social media companies like Meta contribute to the mental health crisis in the U.S. for financial gains.
Nine additional attorneys general announced on Tuesday that they were filing lawsuits against the company in their own states.
Meta, which may face civil penalties worth millions of dollars, said it was "disappointed" in the lawsuit.
"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," the company said.
In 2021, documents released by a whistleblower showed that the company knew Instagram was addictive and worsened body image issues for some teen girls.
Meta, ByteDance's TikTok, and Google's YouTube already face hundreds of lawsuits over the addictiveness of social media.
In his State of the Union address in February, President Joe Biden urged Congress to "hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they're conducting on our children for profit."
"It's time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children," Biden said.
According to an advisory issued by the surgeon general in May, there is not enough evidence to say that the use of social media is safe for children.
The advisory says, "Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends."
- Cybernews. Meta's Instagram linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia in kids - US states' lawsuit.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Surgeon General Issues New Advisory About Effects Social Media Use Has on Youth Mental Health.
- White House. Remarks of President Joe Biden – State of the Union Address as Prepared for Delivery.