Tags: meta | facebook | instagram | social media

Meta Facing Coordinated Lawsuits Over Youth Policies

By    |   Saturday, 22 June 2024 11:23 AM EDT

Attorneys general in 45 states and the District of Columbia have joined in a coordinated effort to file more than a dozen lawsuits against Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, on claims that the company has used practices that get children and teenagers hooked to the social media sites while decieving the general public about the harm that could happen.

The court filings include approximately 1,400 pages of documents filed by the state of Tennessee alone, according to The New York Times, which in an analysis published Saturday reported that the filings show that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other company leaders promoted company safety while rejecting employees' pleas to hire more staff and increase protections for young people.

"A lot of these decisions ultimately landed on Mr. Zuckerberg's desk," New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez commented. "He needs to be asked explicitly and held to account explicitly for the decisions he's made."

The lawsuits also reflect growing concerns that younger social media users can be solicited sexually online, as well as being targeted through algorithms that result in compulsive online use. 

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called for warning labels for social networks on claims that platforms are a public health risk for young people. And Congress is considering passage of the Kids Online Safety Act, which would require social media companies to turn off some features for young users, such as phone notifications.

Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw commented through a statement that the company wanted to reassure parents that it has "their interests at heart in the work we're doing to help provide teens with safe experiences online."

She noted that Meta has developed more than 50 safety tools and features for youth safety, including restrictions to keep teens under the age of 16 from getting direct messages from people they don't follow and limiting age-inappropriate content.

Crenshaw further claimed that the states' lawsuits "mischaracterize our work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents."

Parents, though, are challenging Meta's claims of safety for young people, including Mary Rodee of Canton, New York, whose 15-year-old son killed himself after he was sexually extorted on Facebook in 2021 by a stranger who posed as a teenaged girl.

Rodee sued Meta in March and said the company never responded to reports she submitted to the site about her son's death.

However, internal documents for Meta show the company has struggled for years to keep teen users engaged. 

Back in 2016, when the company was still being called Facebook and owned the Instagram and WhatsApp services, an annual survey showed that Snapchat, owned by a rival company, had surpassed Instagram. Zuckerberg directed executives to focus on getting teens to spend more time on the company programs and Instagram unveiled its own disappearing post-sharing feature, similar to Snapchat's.

One employee wrote that the "overall company goal is total time spent," according to one of the exhibits in Tennessee's case.

Meanwhile, Instagram rules require that users be over the age of 13, but documents show that the company knows that millions of users are younger than that, according to the joint lawsuits filed against Meta.

Sandy Fitzgerald

Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics. 

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Attorneys general in 45 states and the District of Columbia in a coordinated effort have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against Meta, claiming the company has used practices to hook children and teenagers while deceiving the general public about potential harm.
meta, facebook, instagram, social media
Saturday, 22 June 2024 11:23 AM
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