Arizona among states suing Meta, accusing company of harming youth mental health
Oct 24, 2023, 10:01 AM
PHOENIX — Arizona is one of more than 40 states suing Meta Platforms Inc. for allegedly harming youth mental health by designing Instagram and Facebook features that make children addicted.
The suit, filed Tuesday in California federal court, also claims Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law.
“There is a youth mental health crisis in America fueled by social media use, particularly young people’s extensive and compulsive use of Meta’s platforms such as Instagram and Facebook,” Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said in a press release.
“This ongoing catastrophe has ended lives, devastated families and damaged the potential of our nation’s youth.”
The broad-ranging suit is the result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont. It follows damning newspaper reports, first by The Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2021, based on the Meta’s own research that found that the company knew about the harms Instagram can cause teenagers — especially teen girls — when it comes to mental health and body image issues.
One internal study cited 13.5% of teen girls saying Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17% of teen girls saying it makes eating disorders worse.
The use of social media among teens is nearly universal in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Up to 95% of youth ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center.
To comply with federal regulation, social media companies ban kids under 13 from signing up to their platforms — but children have been shown to easily get around the bans, both with and without their parents’ consent, and many younger kids have social media accounts.
“Meta not only ignored the well-being of young users but deliberately misled the public, claiming their platforms were safe,” Mayes said. “By violating consumer protection laws and federal privacy standards, they’ve put the mental health and well-being of an entire generation at risk.
“Meta must be held accountable for its irresponsible and damaging actions.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.