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US sues Meta over children’s mental health

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Dozens of US states have sued Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, accusing it of harming children’s mental health and misleading people about the safety of its platforms.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, alleges that Meta has exploited young users by creating a business model designed to maximize the time they spend on the platform, even though it knows this can be harmful to their health.

In a legal complaint submitted on Tuesday, attorneys general from 33 states, including California and New York, alleged that Meta consistently provided false information to the public regarding the risks associated with its online platforms.

They also claimed that Meta intentionally encouraged young kids and teenagers to engage in addictive and compulsive use of social media.

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In seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its Social Media Platforms,” argued a joint lawsuit filed in federal court in California.

More than 40 states are suing Meta, though some opted to file in local courts rather than join in the federal case.

Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement announcing the suit.

Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.

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The lawsuit accuses Meta of deceptive and unlawful conduct harming vulnerable youth for financial gain. It urges the federal court to order Meta to stop manipulative tactics and pay hefty financial penalties along with restitution.

Meta has denied the allegations, saying that it has developed more than 30 tools in its apps to support teenage users and made it easier for parents to “shape” online activity. The company also said that it is working on industry-wide solutions to address the issue of youth mental health.

The lawsuit is the result of a nationwide investigation that was launched in 2021 after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked documents to the media that suggested the company was putting profit ahead of user safety.

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However, Meta expressed its “disappointment” in response to the lawsuit and noted that the states were not collaborating with the various social media companies to establish age-appropriate standards.

Meta emphasized that it has created over 30 tools within its apps to assist teenage users and has simplified the process for parents to oversee online activities.

The technology company argued that it’s disheartening that the attorneys general singled out Meta instead of pursuing industry-wide solutions, especially given the popularity of competitors like TikTok, YouTube, and Snap.

Meta also highlighted that social media can serve as a platform where young individuals facing challenges in their lives seek support and a sense of community.

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