A multitude of U.S. states have initiated legal proceedings against Meta and Instagram, alleging that they have amplified the mental health concerns of young people by fostering addiction through their social media platforms, as per Voice of America.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Oakland, 33 states, among them California and Illinois, have accused Meta of persistently disseminating misleading information about the risks associated with its platforms. Furthermore, they claim that the company deliberately encouraged younger children and teenagers to engage compulsively with social media, thus perpetuating an addictive online ecosystem.
"Research has shown that the use of Meta's social media platforms is associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, disruptions in youth's education and daily life, as well as many other negative outcomes," the lawsuit states.
The core driving force behind these actions is the pursuit of profit above all else
"The target used unprecedentedly powerful technologies to attract and ultimately ensnare youth and teenagers. The motive is profit," the lawsuit said, which seeks, among other things, significant civil penalties.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, made a public commitment to prioritize the safety of teenagers on the internet. They have vowed to take steps to enhance online security for this age group. "We are disappointed that state prosecutors decided to take this step instead of productively collaborating with companies across the sector to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the many applications that teenagers use," Meta said in a statement.
In 2021, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, became the focus of intense public scrutiny when internal documents surfaced, revealing allegations that the company possessed data indicating the addictive nature of Instagram and its potential to worsen mental health issues, particularly among teenage girls grappling with self-esteem issues related to their physical appearance.
These revelations triggered a substantial legal backlash. The lawsuit against Meta contends that the company actively strives to maximize the time young individuals spend on its social media platforms, well aware that teenagers often seek acceptance and validation through the accumulation of "likes" from other users.
This deliberate exploitation of these vulnerabilities has, according to the legal action, contributed to a harmful environment for adolescent mental health. Moreover, the lawsuit asserts that Meta misled the public by consistently refuting claims that its platforms could have detrimental effects on mental well-being.
The legal action underscores a growing concern over the impact of social media on the mental health of teenagers and the ethical responsibilities of tech giants in addressing these concerns.