Landmark Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Meta Accountable for Addictive Technology

Art by Dima Solomin via Unsplash

Landmark Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Meta Accountable for Addictive Technology

By Movieguide® Contributor

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia are suing Meta for building addictive features into its technology that harm children’s well-being.

“Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“We have a youth mental health crisis in the United States,” added Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. “The young people were brought down rabbit holes.”

To hold Meta accountable for this alleged business practice, thirty-three states are filing a joint lawsuit against the company, while eight states and Washington D.C. are filing separate complaints in federal, state or local courts.

The complaints argue that Meta misled parents and children regarding its safety features, allowing it to illegally collect data on children for profit, thereby violating child privacy laws.

These lawsuits from the state attorneys general come as the federal government has failed to introduce any regulations that bar companies from prioritizing profit over user engagement or safety. While the Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it wants to better regulate tech companies, concrete action has yet to be taken by the federal government.

The state-led lawsuits are the next best option as they attempt to place some accountability on Meta for the damage it has caused to millions of children’s mental well-being.

Meta, meanwhile, alleges that it has implemented many safety features to keep children safe on its platforms.

“[Meta is] 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,” said Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw.

This landmark action against Meta mirrors lawmakers’ response to big tech in general, which many people have grown weary of in recent years, especially as an epidemic of mental health issues has exploded across the country.

To combat the addictiveness of social media, Arkansas and Utah have both passed laws that ban kids younger than 13 from social media and require those under 18 to have parental approval to use any of these platforms.

New York lawmakers have also introduced a bill to make social media less addictive for children by turning off a platform’s algorithm, instead only allowing followed creators’ posts to appear on their feeds. This feature is already available for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat users in the EU.

Movieguide® previously reported:

As big tech has targeted children with increasingly addictive products through the years, New York lawmakers are now striking back by introducing legislation that would make social media less addictive.

The bills, introduced earlier this month, would make it illegal for social media platforms to collect data on children or to bombard them with “addictive” feeds using accounts they don’t follow.

“Young New Yorkers are struggling with record levels of anxiety and depression and social media companies that use addictive features to keep minors on their platforms longer are largely to blame,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said. “This legislation will help tackle the risks of social media affecting our children and protect their privacy.”

The legislation aims to protect children from endless scrolling, which is detrimental to their mental health and development. Two bills have been introduced for this purpose.