New Jersey and 41 other states have sued Meta in federal and state court, claiming the company knowingly designed features on Facebook and Instagram that are harmful and purposefully addict children and teens. The plaintiffs say Meta falsely assured the public some features are suitable for young users.
“As New Jersey’s chief law enforcement officer and as a parent, I feel strongly that there is nothing more important than ensuring the well-being of our children,” New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in a statement. “And we know that in the era of social media, their mental health has never been more at risk.”
The lawsuit also claims Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, which violates federal law. In addition, the lawsuit claims Meta knew the addictive features harmed kids’ physical and mental health, and, instead of doing anything about it, claimed the platforms were safe.
“We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Meta says it has made a number of changes so teens can express themselves in a safe environment, including using age-verification technology, setting teens’ accounts under 16 years of age to private, and developing technology to help prevent suspicious adults from interacting with teens.
“Meta knows its platforms are harming children and teens, but continues to make every effort to keep kids addicted without even attempting to abide by federal laws meant to protect the most vulnerable,” Cari Fais, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said in a statement.
“I join dozens of other Attorneys General to once and for all hold Meta and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, accountable for deceptive, manipulative practices on Instagram and Facebook that they knew were harmful,’ Platkin said. “Profits — not people, not its most vulnerable users, children and teens — drive the decision-making at Meta. That stops today.”
In addition, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont, have filed separate lawsuits in state court alleging that Meta violates numerous laws including deceptive trade, consumer fraud, unlawful trade, unjust enrichment, negligence, product liability and public nuisance claims. Only the states of Alabama and Texas are not taking such actions.