This is the accusation levied against the Big Tech company several weeks ago by dozens of state attorneys general, who filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc. and three of its subsidiaries for allegedly harming children by getting them addicted to Meta's social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram. (Related: 42 Attorneys general SUE Meta over "highly addictive" social media platforms they say harm young people.)
This bipartisan group of 42 states alleges that billionaire tech giant Mark Zuckerberg "knowingly designed and deployed harmful features on Instagram and Facebook to purposefully addict children and teens."
The state attorneys general's lawsuit is built off of years worth of evidence and investigations strongly suggesting that Facebook intentionally targeted children and teenagers for monetary gain. One whistleblower even leaked confidential Facebook documents showing that the youth demographic was the social media platform's "valuable but untapped audience."
Following the filing of multiple lawsuits against tech giants accusing them of harming the mental health of American youths, Meta and other Big Tech companies – including Google parent company Alphabet, TikTok operator ByteDance and Snapchat operator Snap – tried to get a court to dismiss the litigation.
But United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers for the Northern District of California ruled against the tech giants, allowing the lawsuits against them to proceed.
Along with the lawsuits by the states, school districts across the country have also filed lawsuits against Meta, ByteDance, Alphabet and Snap alleging that the companies intentionally caused not only mental but also physical harm to children.
Gonzalez Rogers' ruling states that the First Amendment and Section 230, Title 47 of the U.S. Code, which says online platforms should not be treated as publishers of third-party content, does not shield social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube from all liability.
The lawsuits, Gonzalez Rogers argues, do not constitute attacks on the free speech and expression of the social media platforms. Rather, they have to do with alleged "defects" to the platforms themselves. These include insufficient parental controls, no "robust" age verification systems, and unnecessarily difficult account deletion processes.
"Addressing these defects would not require that defendants change how or what speech they disseminate," wrote Gonzalez Rogers in her ruling. "For example, parental notifications could plausibly empower parents to limit their children's access to the platform or discuss platform use with them."
However, Gonzalez Rogers did throw out some aspects of the lawsuits against Meta and other social media companies, claiming they are protected under Section 230. These include demands to offer a beginning and an end to social media feeds, recommending children's accounts to adults, and the proposed use of limits on the amount of time children can spend on the platforms.
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Watch this video discussing how Zuckerberg and Meta target children, intentionally making them addicted to social media.