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Is This a Moral Reckoning? 41 States Sue Meta for Knowingly Addicting Young Users

The lawsuit claims that Meta's platforms are harming its young users. The data backs it up.

Let the lawsuit begin. Dozens of states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Meta, the tech giant responsible for Instagram and Facebook, for misleading the public about the addictive dangers of its social media platforms. The states, 41 in total, allege that Meta’s products are purposefully addictive and are harming users, particularly kids. Karissa Bell reports,

A central claim of the lawsuit is that Meta’s business model depends on holding the attention of young users on Facebook and Instagram, even at the expense of their wellbeing. “Meta designed and deployed harmful and psychologically manipulative product features to induce young users’ compulsive and extended Platform use, while falsely assuring the public that its features were safe and suitable for young users,” the lawsuit states. It added that the company “routinely” shared reports suggesting otherwise despite “overwhelming internal research” showing its features were harmful.

-Karissa Bell, 41 states sue Meta for harming the mental health of its youngest users (yahoo.com)

Bell cites the Facebook “whistleblower” Frances Haugen, who came forward with evidence that Meta had blatantly disregarded users’ mental health concerns.

The lawsuit coincides with a new article from Jean Twenge, known for researching “Gen-Z” and their painful relationship with addictive digital media. Twenge goes through 13 solutions that seek to explain the mental health crisis among young people today but concludes that, given the trends and data, social media and smartphones are the culprits. She writes,

As a researcher focusing on large surveys, I first started to see these trends around 2012 or 2013 – more teens said they were lonely, didn’t enjoy life, and felt they couldn’t do anything right (see Figure 6.34 in Generations). When the increases kept going, I naturally wondered what might be causing them. At the time, these surveys were also showing large shifts in how teens spent their time outside of school: Teens were spending much more time online, much less time with friends in person, and less time sleeping. That’s not a good formula for mental health, so it seemed logical these changes might be related to the increase in depression.

-Jean Twenge, Yes, it’s the phones (and social media) – by Jean M. Twenge (substack.com)

Experts like Twenge and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt continue to warn us about the corrosive effects of social media. By and large, it seems like their research has gone somewhat neglected; it’s easy to nod along in agreement with their findings but do little to change either one’s personal habits or challenge leaders to implement guardrails against Big Tech’s manipulative business model. Now, however, the tide seems to be turning. 41 states have had enough, and Meta will have to come up with some answers.

Peter Biles

Writer and Editor, Center for Science & Culture
Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is the author of Hillbilly Hymn and Keep and Other Stories and has also written stories and essays for a variety of publications. He was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma and serves as Managing Editor of Mind Matters.

Is This a Moral Reckoning? 41 States Sue Meta for Knowingly Addicting Young Users