This week, Meta’s attorneys are truly making their salaries. View this: Because of concerns that the “addictive” aspects of Instagram and Facebook are negatively affecting the mental health of teenagers, the parent corporation of both platforms is being sued by more than thirty states.
33 attorneys general claim that Meta’s goods have injured children and exacerbated the country’s mental health problem in a federal lawsuit brought in California.
There was more to come from the legal assault, as my colleague Brian Fung explains. Eight other attorneys general filed comparable lawsuits against Meta in state courts. Additionally, the state of Florida filed a federal complaint against the business, claiming that it had misled customers about possible health hazards.
Nevertheless, this barrage of legal action stems from a bipartisan probe that began in 2021, following the disclosure of internal documents by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who claimed that Meta knew its products could have detrimental effects on the mental health of youth, particularly girls.
We are aware that choices were made to increase the product’s addictiveness, according to Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti. And in order to ensure that they are not taking advantage of these vulnerabilities in youngsters, we want the corporation to reverse that.
In reaction, Meta stated that it has already provided users with options and that it supports the mission of the attorney generals to ensure teen safety online.
Meta released a statement saying, We’re unhappy that the attorneys general have chosen this path rather than working constructively with businesses across the tech sector to create clear, age-appropriate requirements for the many apps teens use.
The federal lawsuit, which was filed in California, asks for court orders that forbid Meta from breaking any laws and, in the case of numerous states, monetary fines that are not defined.
As legislators come to terms with the terrible reality of the information dump that is the Internet in general and social media in particular, we are in the midst of a kind of Big Tech reckoning. Hey everyone, welcome to the celebration! Enter now, as the water is poisonous.
The legal attack on Tuesday is part of a larger attempt by the federal government and states to restrain the Googles and Metas of the world, who thrived for years with no oversight, in part because of massive lobbying operations in Washington, DC, to get lawmakers off the industry’s back. It wasn’t until Haugen came forward through the Wall Street Journal, which published a number of incriminating stories detailing Meta’s own in-house studies on the effects of social media on young people who are mentally ill in 2021.
To be clear, the teens represented a small portion of all users, and the researchers at Meta came to the conclusion that most users were not at risk from using social media.
Nevertheless, the remarkably united stance of so many states (many of which are unable to agree on anything) indicates that politicians are paying attention to the health hazards associated with internet use, much like they did when they resisted cigarette advertisements that targeted youth decades ago.
Colorado AG Phil Weiser stated in a statement that Meta has chosen to increase its profits at the cost of public health, particularly damaging the health of the young among us—just like Big Tobacco and vaping companies have done in years past.
By no means is Meta alone. A federal judge in California is scheduled to hear similar accusations against the larger tech sector later this week. Attorneys for Google, Meta, Snap, and TikTok will present their cases in court, pleading with the judge to reject over 200 lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging the companies are abusing or damaging their users.
Much of the subsequent events are contingent upon the outcome of this litigation. Lawyers in Silicon Valley, no pressure. No demands.