A coalition of over 30 states has sued the social media giant Facebook, also known as Meta, over what the plaintiffs describe as an addictive and harmful nature that primarily affects children.
Politico reports that the lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in a San Francisco federal court, with 33 state attorneys general signing on. The suit states that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has violated federal online privacy laws and state consumer protection laws by making its products addictive for children, and subsequently lying about the negative impact on children’s mental health.
In addition to the lawsuit of 33 states, another 8 state attorneys general, plus the District of Columbia, have filed their own separate lawsuits in state courts alleging similar violations of state consumer protection laws.
“We refuse to allow Meta to trample on our children’s mental and physical health, all to promote its products and increase its profits,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is leading the coalition of 33 states, in a press conference. “We refuse to allow the company to feign ignorance of the harm that’s causing, we refuse to let it continue business as usual.”
Bonta, a progressive Democrat, also noted the bipartisan nature of the coalition, which features 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans.
“Folks that don’t team up too often are teaming up today,” Bonta continued. “I think that speaks volumes, less so about the success on the merits, but I think more about the scope of the problem and how it touches every corner of this country.”
The lawsuits attempt to challenge Meta in a way that does not involve Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a controversial law that has largely protected platforms from liability over the content of users’ posts. As such, the lawsuits targeting the platform from a consumer protection standpoint are not focused on specific content, but rather, focusing on Meta’s alleged deception over the safety of children who use such platforms.
The social media giant released a statement after the lawsuit was filed, saying “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.” The spokesman also noted that the company had made over 30 design changes in an effort to improve the safety of underaged users.