Meta Platforms, the parent company of both the Instagram and Facebook social media platforms, has been sued by more than half of the states in the U.S. over its significant role in the youth mental health crisis that has developed in recent years.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday in federal court in Oakland, California, says that the company’s platforms are addictive in nature and have contributed to many youth facing a mental health crisis.
There are 33 states that have joined in the lawsuit thus far, including both Illinois and California. In the complaint, the states said that Meta repeatedly misled the general public about what they call substantial dangers that its platforms present. In addition, they are being accused of knowingly inducing teenagers and even young children into compulsive and addictive use of social media.
As the complaint reads:
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. Its motive is profit.”
There are multiple remedies that the complainants are seeking through this lawsuit, which would include significant civil penalties.
In response to the suit, Meta has said that it has worked hard to make their platforms safe for teens.
In an emailed statement, the company said:
“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.”
A large part of the focus that’s been placed on Meta comes from documents that were released in 2021, showing the company possessed data that showed that Instagram was addictive. Data for the app, which was originally started to share photos, also showed that it worsened body image issues that some teen girls were having.
In the lawsuit, Meta is being accused of working to ensure that all young people spend as much time as they possibly can on their social media apps, even though they knew that the brains of teenagers were susceptible to needing to seek approval.
On social media apps, this comes in the form of posting content that could generate a lot of likes, shares and/or comments.
The lawsuit further claims that Meta was deceptive when it denied publicly that the social media apps they run are harmful.
It’s expected that nine other states will soon join the lawsuit, which would bring the total that are part of the suit to 42.
The company, which is based out of Menlo Park in California, is facing hundreds of other lawsuits that have been brought on behalf of school districts and children, all of which raise similar claims to the one in this suit.
Meta isn’t the only social media company that is the subject of this type of lawsuit, though. Many other companies that run similar apps are having to answer for the addictive nature of their platforms and how they might have contributed to the youth mental health crisis in the U.S.