Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, faces accusations of deceiving the public regarding the hazards associated with using social media and exacerbating a mental health challenge among young individuals.
Lawsuit Filed Against Instagram
These allegations stem from a federal lawsuit, jointly announced by numerous U.S. states. They assert that the company employed addictive features to attract users while hiding the considerable risks of its platforms.
In response, Meta expressed its “disappointment.”
The lawsuit contends that Meta violated consumer protection laws through its involvement in “deceptive” practices.
The lawsuit further stated that the company gathered data from children under the age of 13, disregarding its obligations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of 33 attorneys general who signed the lawsuit, emphasized, “Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable.”
Additionally, nine more states pursued similar claims in their respective lawsuits.
A Meta spokesperson responded, saying, “We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families. We’re disappointed that instead of working collaboratively with companies across the industry to establish clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps used by teens, the attorneys general have opted for this approach.”
It’s worth noting that Meta, along with other social media companies, is already facing hundreds of lawsuits in the U.S. brought by families, young individuals, and school districts concerning the impact on mental health.
Insights from Meta’s Research Head
This represents the most significant action taken thus far.
It comes after a 2021 investigation into the company’s practices by multiple state prosecutors, prompted by whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony in the U.S., revealing that the company was aware of the potential harm its products could cause to children.
Meta disputes the notion that Instagram negatively impacts the mental health of young individuals.
“It is not accurate to claim that this research proves Instagram is “harmful” for teenage girls,” stated Pratiti Raychoudhury, Vice President and Head of Research at Meta.
Ms. Raychoudhury also noted, “The research actually indicated that many teenagers we spoke to find that using Instagram is beneficial when they are dealing with the challenging moments and issues that teenagers have always encountered.”