Over 30 states filed a federal lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Instagram, Meta Payments, and Meta Platforms Technologies. Eight other states filed separate lawsuits under similar claims.
The lawsuit alleges that Meta runs a “scheme to exploit young users for profit” by increasing engagement, harvesting data, falsely advertising safety features, and promoting unhealthy social expectations, sleep habits, and body image.
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Most importantly, the lawsuit alleges that Meta knows how its platforms affect young people and does not act accordingly to protect them. Additionally, the plaintiffs claim that Meta, concerning Instagram and Facebook, is in noncompliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).
The lawsuit states that Instagram and Facebook collect the personal information of children without parental consent, do not verify parental consent before collecting such data, and violate COPPA because the platforms do such practices while being marketed towards children.
The lawsuit points to Meta’s algorithms and claims they are exploitative and predatory. There’s not much public information available about how Meta’s algorithms work, but we do know that multiple algorithms are responsible for the content users see on Meta’s platforms.
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Another aspect of the lawsuit claims that Meta knowingly markets its platforms to children despite evidence that Instagram can have a direct impact on mental health and body image issues, especially for teenage girls.
In 2021, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen shared internal Facebook documents and research with members of the US Congress. Haugen alleged that the documents, collectively called the Facebook Papers, proved that Meta repeatedly and knowingly prioritized profits over the public good.
The documents also suggested that Meta knew that Instagram’s content, filters, and features fueled teenagers’ body image issues, anxiety, and depression.
Since then, the US Surgeon General released a social media health advisory for American teens, and lawmakers and lawyers have been grappling with how to keep children safe online in the era of big tech.