Three Dozen States Sue Meta, Allege Facebook and Instagram Harm Kids

The lawsuits say social media exploits youth for profit and damages their mental health

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Meta Platforms was hit Tuesday with multiple lawsuits claiming that its Facebook and Instagram social media platforms exploit youths and feed them harmful content.

The larger suit was filed in the Northern District of California by Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts, California and 29 other states, according to multiple reports. Washington, D.C. and eight other states are filing separate complaints in federal, state or local courts.

It was not immediately clear which states were not taking part in the actions or if there are more suits planned.

While the exact claims may differ in each suit, they are expected to bring similar arguments that Meta uses manipulative tactics to get kids hooked on the social media, then feeds them harmful, even toxic content.

The attorneys general also charged the company with violating federal privacy laws for children, The New York Times reported. ”Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” The Times reported the suit said. “Its motive is profit.”

The series of suits stem from an widespread investigation launched in 2021 by a bipartisan coalition of states attorneys general focusing on whether Meta violated consumer protection laws by marketing Facebook and Instagram to children and teens, The Washington Post reported.

Meta responded by explaining that it had “engaged in a meaningful dialogue with the attorneys general” about its efforts to “support young people on its platforms,” and that the suits were “disappointing” because they “single out one company” when there are multiple social platforms popular with teens.

“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,” Meta said in an emailed statement. The company maintained that it shares the concerns about teens’ safety and “have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.”

The suits come five months after the U.S. surgeon general released a damning report that warned about the social media impacts on young people’s mental health.

“The most common question parents ask me is, ‘Is social media safe for my kids?’” Dr. Vivek Murthy said as he released the advisory, which found that 95% of kids aged 13 to 17 years use at least one social media platform. “The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health.”

The state’s cases comes on top of more than 70 lawsuits filed this year alone against Meta and other social media companies, Bloomberg reported. This crop joins hundreds of other legal actions in the past few years to hit social media companies, including Snap, ByteDance’s TikTok and YouTube parent Google, amid rising concerns about young people’s mental health issues.

The myriad cases put forth claims from adolescents and young adults who say they’ve suffered anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and sleeplessness as a result of their addiction to social media. In at least seven cases, the plaintiffs are the parents of children who’ve died by suicide, Bloomberg said.


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