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Meta is being sued by the US for harming young people

The lawsuit follows a long list of lawsuits against the marketing practices of Facebook and Instagram

Meta is being sued by the US for harming young people  The lawsuit follows a long list of lawsuits against the marketing practices of Facebook and Instagram

More than thirty states in North America have sued Meta Platforms Inc. alleging that Instagram and Facebook exploit young people for profit. While the lawsuit was filed in California on Tuesday, Meta has stated its commitment to the safety of teenagers online, having implemented new tools to support families. The first time such an allegation was raised, BoF reports, was in 2021, when a former Meta employee disclosed revealing documents about the company's internal operations. Already then, Frances Haugen had stated that the company was aware of the improper practices it used to leverage young and sensitive users for profit. A study by Meta, Haugen shared, showed that many teenage girls active on Instagram suffered from critical anxiety and depression issues regarding their body image. Frances Haugen's testimony was used by Congress to file the new lawsuit against Meta.

Studies pointing to social media as a major cause of depression and anxiety among adolescents are numerous. According to reports by the Child Mind Institute, from 2007, the year smartphones were introduced, to 2015, symptoms of depression among young people soared and visits to psychological counselling centres for students and university students increased by 30%, continuing to rise during the pandemic. In 2017, a study showed that depression levels among 14-18 year old boys increased by 33% between 2010 and 2015, and the suicide rate among girls increased by 65% during the same period. Meta, Snap, TikTok and Google are at the centre of several lawsuits denouncing social media as the main reasons for anxiety and depression disorders among young people, as well as eating and sleep disorders. All platforms have stated that they are offering more family-friendly resources so that parents can regulate their children's social media use, while Meta has defended itself on the latest complaint. «We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path,» the company said. 

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The latest lawsuit filed by some in the US alleges that Meta has underestimated the effects of its platforms on young people, despite the alarming results of its own studies. One of the examples given suggests that Facebook, despite prohibiting registration of children under 13 without parental consent, obtains personal information of users under the age limit by even making use of images of young people using the social in its advertising campaigns. The lawsuit also cites the pages of toy companies on Meta's platforms, including Hot Wheels and Lego. What has been demanded by the plaintiffs is the addition of consumer protection laws and the imposition of fines on the company for violating federal laws.