NY AG James Joins Lawsuit Against Meta With 32 Other States: 'They Must Be Held Accountable'

New York Attorney General Letitia James and a group of attorneys general from 32 other states have filed a federal lawsuit against Meta for contributing to a mental health crisis among young people, officials announced.

Social media.

Social media.

Photo Credit: Pixabay/Gerd Altmann

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the social media company knowingly designed and implemented features on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms that purposefully take advantage of children and teens, James' office announced on Tuesday, Oct. 24. 

Additionally, the lawsuit also charges Meta with collecting data on children under the age of 13 without consent from parents, a violation of federal law. 

"Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame," James said of the lawsuit, adding, "Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem." 

Some of these features listed by James' office include: 

  • Algorithms designed to recommend content in order to keep users on the platform for a longer period of time and encourage compulsive use;
  • "Likes," which James called a "social comparison feature";
  • Alerts meant to get young users to keep returning to Meta's platforms, even through the school day and at night;
  • Visual filter features that promote body dysmorphia among young users;
  • "Infinite Scroll" formats that keep young users on the platforms.

According to James' office, studies have shown links between young people's use of Meta's platforms and psychological and physical harms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and interference with school. 

"While Meta has publicly denied and downplayed these harmful effects, it cannot credibly plead ignorance," officials from James' office said in a statement. 

The lawsuit seeks to stop Meta from implementing these harmful features, in addition to penalties and restitution, officials said. 

Along with James, joining the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  

"Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable. I am proud to join my fellow attorneys general to stop Meta’s harmful tactics and keep children safe online," James said. 

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