Instagram and its parent company Meta are being sued by a coalition of 33 states in America for intentionally damaging children’s mental health.

This involves the states filing an explosive lawsuit against the tech giant, accusing it of exploiting young users for profit and exposing them to harmful content, knowingly inducing them into addictive and compulsive social media use. Their algorithms have resulted in depression, anxiety and insomnia.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” said the complaint, filed by 33 states. “Its motive is profit.”

The groundbreaking suit alleges that Meta has harnessed unprecedented technologies to deliberately deceive the public and ensnare young individuals to spend as much time as possible on social media. This is despite knowing that their teenage brains are susceptible to the desire for approval from other users.

The lawsuit also accuses Meta of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting data on children under the age of 13.

How did it begin?

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of concerns that have surfaced in the past year, provoked by former Meta employee Frances Haugen, whose allegations indicated that Meta knowingly targeted vulnerable young users to enhance its own profits. Haugen strikingly revealed an internal study conducted on Instagram which revealed that several adolescent girls using the platform were also grappling with mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety related to their body-image issues. Haugen’s testimony to Congress has been included in this recent lawsuit.

What’s more, New York Attorney General Letitia James, who signed the lawsuit, emphasized that social media companies, including Meta, have played a decisive contributing role in the national mental health crisis of the youth, and must be held accountable for the same.

Meta’s response:

In response to the lawsuit, Meta Platforms issued a statement that expressed its disappointment in this striking approach taken by the attorneys. It expressed its preference for collaborative efforts within the industry to tackle the problem.

“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,” a Meta spokesperson said.

Going forward:

The lawsuit against Meta seeks a variety of adequate remedies for the accusations against it, including the goal to put an end to Meta’s violation of the law, and substantial civil penalties.

It’s notable that Meta is not the only company targeted by such accusations. Their competitors like Google, TikTok and Snap are contending with similar lawsuits, also arguing that their platforms are primarily responsible for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and sleep disturbances among young users who are ensnared by the temptation of social media.