Meta Sued for Contributing to Youth Mental Health Crisis
Meta Platform Inc., the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, was sued on October 24 by 33 states for deliberately installing features that addict children to its platforms. A coalition of 42 attorney generals filed a lawsuit accusing Meta of manipulating children and contributing to the youth mental health crisis in America.
The court filing reads:
Several studies, including Meta’s very own research, show that there are links between young people’s use of Meta’s platforms and psychological and physical harms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life and many other negative outcomes. While Meta has publicly denied and downplayed these harmful effects, it cannot credibly plead ignorance. Meta’s own internal research documents show its awareness that its products harm young users. Indeed, internal studies that Meta commissioned—and kept private until they were leaked by a whistleblower and publicly reported—reveal that Meta has known for years about these serious harms associated with young users’ time spent on its platforms.
Addiction: The lawsuit alleges that Meta collected data on children under age 13 without obtaining parental consent, which is a breach of federal law. The company used this information to design addictive features for children and teens, including:
- Algorithms designed to recommend content that keeps users on the platform longer and encourages compulsive use
- Instant alerts meant to cause users to return to Meta’s platforms
- “Likes” and social comparison features known to contribute to lower self-esteem in youth
- Visual filters known to cause body image concerns in young users
- Content presentation formats, such as the “infinite scroll” feature, designed to keep users on the platform for as long as possible
Mental issues: The lawsuit referred to a 2019–2020 study by Facebook Inc. that found that “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”
- 32 percent of teenage girls said Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies.
- 17 percent said it made their eating disorders worse.
- 13.5 percent said it worsened thoughts of suicide.
At the time, 22 million teens in the United States logged onto Instagram each day. Over 40 percent of Instagram’s users were 22 years old or younger.
Hidden drug: Screen addiction is destroying our youth and our society. The lawsuit against Meta seems like a win for justice, but will it stop our young people from using social media? Probably not.
Technology addiction is a drug hidden in plain sight. To learn how to beat it, read “How to Crush Screen Addiction.”