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Zuck and Co Are Under Fire (Again)

Meta targeted teens, according to internal company emails

Is there any company out there who has hurt young people more than Mark Zuckerberg’s gargantuan Meta empire?

A host of lawsuits and a damning report from the New York Times tells us that the massive parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp willingly pursued its addictive business model despite the evident damage its products were doing to users, particularly kids.

Who remembers when Facebook launched and its promises of a more connected world? Who remembers the optimists hailing the internet as the next step in human connectivity? A mere twenty years later and the technology lords are facing an overdue reckoning. Natasha Singer writes,

The state lawsuits against Meta reflect mounting concerns that teenagers and children on social media can be sexually solicited, harassed, bullied, body-shamed and algorithmically induced into compulsive online use. Last Monday, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the United States surgeon general, called for warning labels to be placed on social networks, saying the platforms present a public health risk to young people.

-Natasha Singer, How Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Failed Children on Safety, States Say – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

A slew of Meta’s internal emails further indicts the company for poor oversight and care when it comes to teenagers interacting with social media. The goal was always to get teens to spend more time on Meta’s platforms. In their communications with each other within the company, Meta employees were not shy about this. They openly talked about it. Singer continues,

Mr. Zuckerberg directed executives to focus on getting teenagers to spend more time on the company’s platforms, according to the Tennessee complaint.

The “overall company goal is total teen time spent,” wrote one employee, whose name is redacted, in an email to executives in November 2016, according to internal correspondence among the exhibits in the Tennessee case. Participating teams should increase the number of employees dedicated to projects for teenagers by at least 50 percent, the email added, noting that Meta already had more than a dozen researchers analyzing the youth market.

The screen addiction crisis affecting today’s teenagers is not accidental; it would seem, to the surprise of no one at this point in the game, that social media dependency was actually designed by Big Tech architects. I hesitate to judge motivations of others, but now, it is hard to hold Mark Zuckerberg and his digital empire in anything short of extreme distrust, perhaps even disgust.

In 2021, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen came forward alleging that the social media giant was consistently prioritizing its own profits over the common good. As reported in a CBS article, Haugen said,

The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money. 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen details company’s misleading efforts on 60 Minutes – CBS News

So, this is far from the first time Zuckerberg and co have been under fire. The question now is whether these lawsuits will see the light of day and affect genuine change. The General Surgeon’s admonition to add label warnings to social media platforms is similar to the law demanding cigarette boxes include hazard disclaimers. People need to know the risks of the media they’re ingesting.

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 a prolific fiction writer and has written stories and essays for a variety of publications. He was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma and is a contributing writer and editor for Mind Matters.

Zuck and Co Are Under Fire (Again)