- Alleging that Meta designed and deployed harmful social media features targeting children and teens, attorneys general in 41 states and the District of Columbia announced Tuesday they are suing the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.
- In one filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 33 states joined in a complaint saying the company's platforms have "profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans."
- Additionally, the District of Columbia and seven states announced they are filing complaints in their own state courts. Florida is filing its own federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
The bipartisan coalition of top state law enforcers accuse Meta Platforms Inc. of misleading the public about its platforms' harms to youth's social, emotional and physical health, as well as concealing the extent of the psychological and health issues suffered by young users addicted to the apps.
"The overwhelming mental health needs of students, caused by oversaturation of social media, have forced schools to respond," the Florida lawsuit said.
In an email, a Meta spokesperson said in response to the lawsuits: “We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced more than 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.”
Earlier this year, Meta Vice President and Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis, told K-12 Dive in an email, “We want to reassure every parent that we have their interests at heart in the work we’re doing to provide teens with safe, supportive experiences online.”
Davis said at the time that Meta has more than 30 tools to support teens and their families, including ones that verify age and allow parents to decide when and for how long their teens use Instagram. In addition, Davis said Meta tools automatically set new Instagram accounts to private for those under 16 and send notifications encouraging teens to take regular breaks.
The 228-page complaint filed by the 33 states alleged Meta violated their consumer protection acts or unfair trade practices acts. The complaint accuses the company of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by unlawfully collecting personal data of its youngest users without their parents’ permissions.
The states' complaints are similar to multidistrict litigation filed in March, known as the Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation, which consolidates lawsuits against social media companies from school districts, local and state governments and individuals.
In the multidistrict filing, plaintiffs are suing social media companies — including Meta, and the companies behind Snapchat, Tiktok and YouTube — over claims that their apps are addictive, damaging to students’ mental health, and draining to schools and other government resources.
Referring to the attorneys general suit filed Tuesday, the lead plaintiffs' counsel in the multidistrict case said in a joint statement yesterday, "This significant step underscores the undeniable urgency of addressing the impact of addictive and harmful social media platforms, a matter of paramount concern nationwide, as it continues to contribute to a pervasive mental health crisis among American youth." That statement came from Lexi Hazam of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Previn Warren of Motley Rice; and Chris Seeger of Seeger Weiss.
Some individual district lawsuits that are part of this litigation have gone into detail about actions they have taken to address student mental well-being, such as hiring more counselors, using universal screeners, and reallocating funds to address bullying and investigate vandalism.
There are about 425 plaintiffs, including school districts, in that lawsuit. A hearing is set for Friday on a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants in that case.
This story has been updated with a comment from Meta.