HARRISBURG — Attorney General Michelle Henry joined a multi-state coalition in a federal lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc., claiming the company’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, violate consumer protection laws by subjecting young users to a wave of harmful, manipulative, and addictive content.
The lawsuit alleges that Meta knowingly designs and deploys features harmful to children on its platforms, while at the same time, falsely assuring the public that those features are suitable for children.
“The time has come for social media giants to stop trading in our children’s mental health for big profits,” Attorney General Henry said. “According to the lawsuit, Meta not only targets young minds with addictive, harmful, trap-door content – it also lies to the public and parents about how their platforms are safe. Creators have built multi-billion dollar empires by promoting a click-bait culture that is psychologically hurting kids.”
Pennsylvania joins the suit after Attorney General Henry echoed the U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory, in May, that bad social media company practices have contributed to a “youth mental health crisis.” This crisis has tragically ended lives through suicides and acts of violence, and it has damaged the potential of a generation of young people.
The federal complaint, joined by 33 states and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Meta knew that young users, including those under 13, were active on its platforms, and knowingly collected data from these users without parental consent. Federal law prohibits social media platform form enrolling users under age 13.
The suit further alleges that Meta uses platform algorithms to push users into constant interaction with the platforms in an effort to maximize profit. Features like infinite scroll and near-constant alerts at all hours of the day were created with the express goal of hooking young users. These manipulative tactics continually lure children and teens back onto the platform.
Meta allegedly knew these addictive features harmed young people’s physical and mental health, including undermining their ability to get adequate sleep, but it did not disclose the harm nor did it make meaningful changes to minimize the harm.
“Meta has preyed on the vulnerability of young users seeking validation and approval from peers,” Attorney General Henry added. “It has resulted in challenges with body image, self-worth, and a skewed sense of what is normal in the world offline.”
Nearly all Attorneys General in the country have worked together since 2021 to investigate Meta for providing and promoting its social media platforms to children and young adults while use is associated with physical and mental health harms. The Attorneys General assert in the federal suit that Meta’s business practices violate state consumer protection laws, including the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
While some states have pursued litigation in state court and others in collective federal action, the Attorneys General will continue to work together as the litigation continues.
The legal action for Pennsylvania is being handled by Senior Deputy Attorney General Tim Murphy and Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Burns.
States joining the federal lawsuit are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Florida is filing its own federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Filing lawsuits in their own state courts are the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.
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