Meta face legal battle as US states accuse them of harming youth mental health

The states claim that Meta knowingly employed addictive features while concealing potential risks, violating consumer protection laws, and infringing on privacy regulations for children under 13.

A person's hand holding Meta's infinite sign.

In a significant legal development, Meta, Instagram and Facebook’s parent company, is now confronting a massive federal lawsuit filed by multiple US states. The lawsuit accuses Meta of engaging in deceptive practices and contributing to a mental health crisis among young users of its social media platforms.

The states claim that Meta intentionally used addictive features while concealing the potential risks of social media use, violating consumer protection laws, and breaching privacy regulations concerning children under 13. This lawsuit marks the most substantial legal action against Meta to date, as 33 attorneys general, including New York’s Letitia James, join forces in seeking financial damages and an end to what they view as harmful practices by the tech giant.

Moreover, nine additional states are preparing to file similar lawsuits, bringing the total number of states involved in legal action to 42.

Why does it matter?

Amid growing concerns about social media’s adverse effects on young users’ mental health, this lawsuit arises following whistle-blower Frances Haugen’s testimony, alleging that Meta consciously put children at risk with its products.

This issue has drawn the attention of high-ranking officials in the US, including President Biden, who, in his State of the Union address in February, recognized the harmful impact of social media on the mental health of young users and urged Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to address the problem. While some argue that Facebook’s growth is harmless, a substantial body of research strongly supports the detrimental impact of prolonged social media usage on the well-being of young individuals. In the UK, a coroner attributed a schoolgirl’s death to the ‘negative effects of online content.