(The Lion) — Missouri has joined 32 other states in suing Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging it has knowingly harmed the mental health of minors by making its social media addictive.
“This is about protecting children,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey told The Lion. “We know that Facebook has artificially altered their platform in order to make it addictive to children and we seek injunctive relief and monetary relief, due to the platform.
“We’ve got to protect kids. We know that they’ve [Facebook and Instagram] altered the way that their product interacts with children in order to make it more addictive. And lo and behold, more screen time is bad for your physical and mental health, and we’re seeing that more and more in our young population.”
Research conducted by the U.S. Surgeon General supports Bailey’s concern: “Adolescents who spent more than three hours per day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptom of depression and anxiety.”
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in California, further claims Meta is violating federal law by collecting data from users 13 and under without parental consent, according to KOMU.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone continues to deny any fault, instead citing tools the company claims keeps teens safe.
“We share the attorney general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families,” Stone said of one individual lawsuit from Washington, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb.
It hasn’t been enough, according to Bailey, who also believes Meta needs to experience consequences for its actions.
“I think it’s important that there be monetary relief as a sanction to this company for its deceptive practice of luring children into its platform, exacerbating mental health problems, by contriving a platform that is designed to be addictive for children – and then hiding the negative health risks from both parents and policymakers,” Bailey told The Lion.
The lawsuit alleges Meta’s algorithms, copious alerts, notifications and so-called “infinite scroll” through platform were all designed to keep young users on them for longer and ensure they keep coming back.
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen even leaked internal documents in 2021 that showed Meta had research concluding its social media was harmful to adolescents.
According to one document, “thirty-two percent of teen girls said they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” CNBC reported.
This week, eight additional states filed their own suits, bringing the total number of states involved in the litigation to 41.
“Hey, look, America is under attack,” Bailey told The Lion. “It is up to state attorneys general to be warriors in the fight to protect the people of the state of Missouri and our constitutional rights. I will never tire or cease fighting to protect Missourians in our constitutional rights.”