U.S. States Sue Meta Platforms Over Harms to Youth

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U.S. California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Tuesday co-led a bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general in filing a federal lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. and its affiliates, alleging that the company designed and deployed harmful features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children and teens to their mental and physical detriment.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The attorneys general are seeking injunctive and monetary relief to address Meta’s misconduct, Bonta said in a statement.

As part of this coordinated effort, eight attorneys general announced filing lawsuits against Meta Tuesday in their respective state courts.

The federal and state complaints are the result of a nationwide investigation Bonta announced on Nov. 18, 2021.

“Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” Bonta noted.

In the joint lawsuit, Meta is alleged to have violated federal and state laws. According to the federal complaint, Meta’s misconduct included creating a business model focused on maximizing young users’ time on its platforms, employing harmful and psychologically manipulative platform features while misleading the public about the safety of those features, and publishing reports purporting to show misleadingly low rates of user harms.

Despite the overwhelming evidence linking its platforms to young user harms, Meta refused to address those harms while continuing to conceal and downplay its platforms’ adverse effects, according to Bota’s statement.

The 33 states joining the federal lawsuit against Meta include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, and Illinois.

Florida is filing its own federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

The District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont have filed related actions in state courts. 

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