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33 U.S. States Unite to Save the Kids from Metaby@metaeatsbrains
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33 U.S. States Unite to Save the Kids from Meta

by Save the Kids From MetaOctober 27th, 2023
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Multiple U.S. states have jointly taken legal action against Meta Platforms, accusing the tech giant of engaging in deceptive and harmful practices affecting young users. The lawsuit details Meta's alleged exploitation of young users to maximize profits, including the use of psychologically manipulative features. The states also claim Meta violated COPPA regulations by collecting data from young users without parental consent. The legal battle seeks to address the extensive damage caused to the mental and physical health of young users and to hold Meta accountable for its actions.

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The United States v. Meta Platforms Court Filing October 24, 2023 is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This is part 1 of 100.

I. SUMMARY OF THE CASE

  1. Over the past decade, Meta[1] —itself and through its flagship Social Media Platforms Facebook and Instagram (its Social Media Platforms or Platforms)—has profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans. Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its Social Media Platforms. It has concealed the ways in which these Platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children.[2] And it has ignored the sweeping damage these Platforms have caused to the mental and physical health of our nation’s youth. In doing so, Meta engaged in, and continues to engage in, deceptive and unlawful conduct in violation of state and federal law.


  2. Meta’s scheme involved four parts: (1) through its development of Instagram and Facebook, Meta created a business model focused on maximizing young users’ time and attention spent on its Social Media Platforms; (2) Meta designed and deployed harmful and psychologically manipulative product features to induce young users’ compulsive and extended Platform use, while falsely assuring the public that its features were safe and suitable for young users; (3) [Redacted], while routinely publishing misleading reports boasting a deceptively low incidence of user harms; and (4) despite overwhelming internal research, independent expert analysis, and publicly available data that its Social Media Platforms harm young users, Meta still refuses to abandon its use of known harmful features—and has instead redoubled its efforts to misrepresent, conceal, and downplay the impact of those features on young users’ mental and physical health.


  1. First, Meta’s business model is based on maximizing the time that young users spend on its Social Media Platforms. Meta targets young users and incentivizes its employees to develop ways to increase the time that young users spend on its Platforms. The more time youngusers spend on Instagram and Facebook, the more Meta earns by selling advertising targeted to those users.


  2. Second, consistent with this business model, Meta has developed and refined a set of psychologically manipulative Platform features designed to maximize young users’ time spent on its Social Media Platforms. Meta was aware that young users’ developing brains are particularly vulnerable to certain forms of manipulation, and it chose to exploit those vulnerabilities through targeted features such as: (a) dopamine-manipulating recommendation algorithms; (b) “Likes” and social comparison features known by Meta to harm young users; (c) audiovisual and haptic alerts that incessantly recall young users to Meta’s Social Media Platforms while at school and during the night; (d) visual filter features known to promote young users’ body dysmorphia; and (e) content-presentation formats, such as infinite scroll, designed to discourage young users’ attempts to self-regulate and disengage with Meta’s Platforms.


  3. In promoting and marketing these features to young users, Meta deceptively represented that the features were not manipulative; that its Social Media Platforms were not designed to promote young users’ prolonged and unhealthy engagement with social media; and that Meta had designed and maintained its Social Media Platforms to ensure safe experiences for young users. These representations, both express and implied, were false and misleading.


  4. Third, to assuage public concerns about harms to young users on Meta’s Social Media Platforms, Meta routinely published profoundly misleading reports purporting to show impressively low rates of negative and harmful experiences by users of its Platforms. [Redacted]


  1. Fourth, despite the strong and well-researched links between young people’s use of Meta’s Social Media Platforms and psychological and physical harm, Meta has continued to conceal and downplay its Platforms’ adverse effects. Research has shown that young people’s use of Meta’s Social Media Platforms is associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, interference with education and daily life, and many other negative outcomes. Internal studies that Meta commissioned (which were kept private until they were leaked by a whistleblower) reveal that Meta has known for years about the serious harms associated with young users’ time spent on its Social Media Platforms. Nonetheless, Meta has continued to deny and downplay these harmful effects to the public and to promote its Platforms as safe for young users.


  2. Finally, Meta has also flouted its obligations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by unlawfully collecting the personal data of its youngest users without their parents’ permission. Meta has marketed and directed its Social Media Platforms to children under the age of 13 and has actual knowledge that those children use its Platforms. But Meta has refused to obtain (or even to attempt to obtain) the consent of those children’s parents prior to collecting and monetizing their personal data. [Redacted] Nonetheless, Meta refuses to limit its collection and use of those children’s personal information as required by law.


  3. These exploitative and harmful acts and practices by Meta are unlawful. They constitute unfair and/or deceptive acts or practices under the state consumer protection statutes, violate COPPA, and further constitute unlawful acts under common law principles.


  4. Now, instead of acknowledging and remedying the harms associated with these unlawful practices, Meta appears to be expanding the use of these practices into new Platforms and domains. This includes, for example, Meta’s Virtual Reality (VR) Metaverse, where young users are immersed into Meta’s new Horizon Worlds platform; Meta’s communication Platforms like WhatsApp and Messenger; and other products, in which Meta uses evolving technology to replicate the harmful strategies it honed through its experiments on the young users of Instagram and Facebook.


  5. Arizona; the People of the State of California (California); Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Georgia; Hawai‘i; Idaho; the People of the State of Illinois, by and through Attorney General Kwame Raoul (Illinois); Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Office of the Attorney General of Maryland (Maryland); Michigan; State of Minnesota, by its Attorney General, Keith Ellison (Minnesota); Missouri; Nebraska; Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, and Cari Fais, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (New Jersey); New York; North Carolina; North Dakota, ex rel. Drew H. Wrigley, Attorney General (North Dakota); Ohio; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; and Wisconsin (collectively, the Filing States) seek to enjoin Meta’s present and ongoing unlawful conduct that harms young users and obtain any other remedies provided for under state or federal laws.




[1] The term “Meta” as used herein refers collectively to Defendants Meta Platforms, Inc.; Instagram, LLC; Meta Payments, Inc.; and Meta Platforms Technologies, LLC, unless otherwise specified.


[2] The term “young users” as used herein refers to users of Meta’s Platforms who are under 18 years of age when using the Platform(s).



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This court case 4:23-cv-05448 retrieved on October 24, 2023, from Washingtonpost.com is part of the public domain. The court-created documents are works of the federal government, and under copyright law, are automatically placed in the public domain and may be shared without legal restriction.