Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey joined 42 attorneys general across the U.S. Tuesday in suing Meta, the parent company of social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, for features on the platforms that they allege are knowingly designed to be harmful to children.
The attorneys general accuse Meta of designing their platforms to purposefully addict children and teens, harming their physical and mental health and violating the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
“Children are incredibly vulnerable to the manipulation of social media companies. We believe Meta misled the public and prioritized their profits over the health and wellbeing of children,” said Attorney General Frey Tuesday. “The allegations suggest an egregious violation of consumer protection laws and public trust.”
The federal lawsuit, joined by 33 states, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and alleges that Meta knew of the harmful impact of its platforms on young people.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that Meta misled the public about the harms associated with the use of its platforms, instead of taking steps to mitigate these harms.
Meta, according to the complaint, also knew that young users — some under 13 — were using their platforms, and knowingly collected data from those users without parental consent.
The complaint bases these allegations on information released by former Meta employees who have detailed how Meta “profited by purposely making its platforms addictive to children and teens.”
“Its platform algorithms push users into descending “rabbit holes” in an effort to maximize engagement. Features like infinite scroll and near-constant alerts were created with the express goal of hooking young users,” the Attorney General’s Office stated Tuesday. “These manipulative tactics continually lure children and teens back onto the platform.”
Maine’s complaint seeks injunctive and monetary relief to “rectify the harms caused by these platforms.”
The multistate coalition is also investigating social media platform TikTok’s conduct on the basis of similar concerns.