By:

Indiana Capital Chronicle

October 24, 2023

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and 41 other attorneys general sued Meta in federal and state courts Tuesday alleging the company knowingly designed and deployed harmful features on Instagram and its other social media platforms that purposefully addict children and teens.

“Our children are our most precious God-given gift, as they are our future generation,” Rokita said. “This is just the next step in our endless fight to protect our youth from harmful, toxic platforms.”

Meta owns and operates a number of social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram and Threads.

The attorneys general assert that Meta’s business practices violate state consumer protection laws and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The federal complaint alleges that Meta knew of the harmful impact of its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, on young people. Instead of taking steps to mitigate these harms, it misled the public about the harms associated with use of its platform, concealing the extent of the psychological and health harms suffered by young users addicted to use of its platforms.

The complaint further asserts that Meta knew that young users, including those under 13, were active on the platforms, and knowingly collected data from these users without parental consent. It targeted these young users noting, as reported in a 2021 Wall Street Journal article, that such a user base was “valuable, but untapped.”

A news release said while much of the complaint relies on confidential material that is not yet available to the public, publicly available sources including those previously released by former Meta employees detail that 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.

Meta knew these addictive features harmed young people’s physical and mental health, including undermining their ability to get adequate sleep, but did not disclose the harm nor did they make meaningful changes to minimize the harm. Instead, they claimed their platforms were safe for young users.

These choices, the complaint alleges, violate state consumer protection laws and COPPA. The federal complaint seeks injunctive and monetary relief to rectify the harms caused by these platforms.

Multiple states also sued TikTok for similar conduct, following Indiana’s lead. A hearing to dismiss Rokita’s TikTok suit is scheduled for this week in Allen County.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: info@indianacapitalchronicle.com.

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