A coalition of 42 prosecutors from various U.S. states has taken a significant step by bringing charges against Meta, claiming that its Facebook and Instagram platforms promote addiction among children and teenagers. This legal action underscores the growing priority of safeguarding the rights of young internet users.
A Unified Legal Front
In a sweeping move, prosecutors from 33 states filed a federal lawsuit against Meta in the Northern District of California. Additionally, nine other prosecutors lodged suits in their respective states, as stated by New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ press release. The diverse political spectrum of supporting prosecutors highlights the substantial legal challenges Meta may confront.
The Allegations Against Meta
Prosecutors argue that Meta engineered Facebook and Instagram to captivate young users, encouraging frequent returns to these social networks. Their claim is rooted in the use of algorithms, excessive notifications, and the endless scrolling feature in the feed. Furthermore, the company’s inclusion of features like likes and photo filters has been accused of negatively impacting teenagers’ mental health through social comparison and the promotion of body dysmorphic disorder. Additionally, Meta faces allegations of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from users under 13 years old without parental consent.
This is not the first time that a broad coalition of U.S. state attorneys general has united to challenge Meta. In 2020, 48 U.S. states and territories filed an antitrust lawsuit against the company, along with a separate complaint from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
These lawsuits underscore the mounting concerns surrounding the online safety of children and raise essential questions about the role and responsibility of tech giants in ensuring a secure online environment for their users. Meta is not alone in facing such investigations; other social media platforms, such as TikTok, are also under scrutiny for similar issues.
The legal actions against Meta may represent only the tip of the iceberg, revealing deeper challenges in the interplay between the human and digital realms, notes NIXsolutions. Striking a balance between innovation and security remains an open question, necessitating public discourse and a sense of responsibility from those shaping our digital future.