PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon and Washington joined a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging the social media giant knowingly designed the apps to be more addictive for kids and teens despite knowing the potential harm posed to the younger audience.
Forty-one states joined the complaint alleging Meta violated state consumer protection laws and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Act.
According to the attorneys general, app features including infinite scrolling, like buttons, push notifications, and “rabbit hole” algorithms are harmful for children and teen’s mental and physical health, adding to the “youth mental health crisis” deemed by the U.S. Surgeon General.
“These platforms are not safe for our young Americans, and Meta knew that! Yet, instead of taking steps to mitigate these harms, Meta misled the public and hid the extent of the harms to mental health suffered by young users addicted to the use of its platforms,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
The suit furthers that Meta knew that young users were active on their platforms and knowingly collected their data without parental consent.
In a press release announcing the suit, Rosenblum explained that the complaint relies on confidential material that is not yet available to the public, including information released by former Meta employees, and claims that Meta profited by purposefully making its platforms addictive to young users.
Despite knowing the potential harms to their younger audience’s health, the suit claims Meta did not make “meaningful” changes and instead claimed their platforms were safe.
“Meta is ignoring the risks that Facebook and Instagram posed to kids — and exploiting them for financial gain,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “My office is committed to protecting the mental health of Washington youth.”
In a statement, Meta said it shares “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 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,” the company added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.