On October 24, 2023, a group of 42 state attorneys general filed lawsuits against Meta, alleging that the features on its Facebook and Instagram platforms are designed to be addictive and are targeted at children and teenagers. This move underscores the growing concern for social media addiction in young users.
The lawsuits against Meta are being filed in multiple districts, with:
- Attorneys general from 33 states jointly launching a federal suit in Northern California, where Meta is headquartered
- An additional nine attorneys general filing separate suits in Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
This coalition of state attorneys general highlights the widespread interest in consumer protection issues and children's online safety. In fact, this isn’t the only legal action taken against Meta’s harmful products.
Since 2021, Meta lawsuits, and other social media addiction claims, have called for stronger regulations to protect young people from the severe mental health impacts of using these products. This latest effort could serve as a catalyst for the industry to reassess how social media platforms are designed.
Many families have taken legal action against Meta for the harm caused by its products. If your family has been impacted, Sokolove Law can help you learn more about your options for free.
What Are the Meta Lawsuits About?
The primary concern of these lawsuits is that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has deliberately designed its platforms to keep young users engaged for longer periods. Several features encourage users to return repeatedly, fueling habit-forming behaviors.
Some of these addictive design features include:
- Algorithm design, which puts more personalized content in front of you
- Frequent notifications that pull you back into the feed after closing the platform
- Infinite scroll, which creates a sense of never-ending content
- Temporary content that makes you fear missing something if you aren’t on the platform
The attorneys general argue that such tactics negatively impact mental health and take advantage of young people. Other features, including “likes” and photo filters, foster social comparison, body dysmorphia, and a need for validation through online engagement.
“We know that there were decisions…to make the product more and more addictive. What we want is for the company to undo that, to make sure that they are not exploiting these vulnerabilities in children.”
– Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti
The lawsuits also accuse Meta of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data on users under the age of 13 without parental consent.
The filing documents claim that Meta was well aware of the detrimental effects its platform designs could have on young users, citing internal research that suggests the company was cognizant of these issues.
Leaked Internal Documents Reveal Knowledge of Harm
In 2021, whistleblower Frances Haugen released internal Facebook documents that heightened scrutiny of Meta's practices. These documents revealed the company's knowledge and continued research of the negative impact of its products on users, particularly young teens.
More than 30% of teen girls felt worse about their appearance after using Instagram, according to one set of leaked documents.
The algorithms for Facebook and Instagram prioritized content that elicited strong emotional reactions or engagement. As a result, images of self-harm and content about eating disorders were often pushed to younger users.
“While Meta has publicly denied and downplayed these harmful effects, it cannot credibly plead ignorance,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a press release.
Meta argues that the company takes safety seriously and hopes to provide positive online experiences by incorporating over 30 features to support teen users and their families. However, the lawsuits filed argue that these tools fall short of addressing the widespread harm Meta’s platforms caused in order to improve engagement.
Notably, the concerns expressed by the attorneys general about Meta's practices are not isolated to this company alone. They allude to the potential for an "industry-wide investigation."
While Meta may be at the forefront of this legal battle due to the evidence of harmful practices, other social media businesses may also come under similar scrutiny in the future.
Sokolove Law: Helping Families Affected by Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction affects countless children and adolescents across the country. When a company makes a product or app available to the public, it should be safe. This may not be the case for some of the features on popular social media platforms — but innocent families shouldn’t have to suffer.
For over 40 years, Sokolove Law has fought to hold powerful companies like Meta accountable for their predatory practices and potentially dangerous products. In the process, we’ve secured billions of dollars for clients across the country.
If you or your child have suffered mental health side effects related to social media addiction, Sokolove Law is here to help your family.
By filing a lawsuit, your family may be able to:
- Hold social media companies accountable for knowingly developing harmful features
- Pursue compensation to help pay for therapy for your child and family
- Influence future regulations to keep more young people safe on social media