October 27, 2023

States Sue Meta to Protect Their Children

Attorneys general from 33 states sue Facebook’s parent company for addicting children to its products and misleading the public about the potential harm.

When social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter burst onto the scene, they found an enthusiastic audience among people of all ages.

At the time, it all seemed so harmless. Keeping in touch with friends, sharing travel pictures, and engaging in discussions on a range of topics made us feel connected to others.

Years ago, though, we began to sense that something wasn’t right, especially with our kids. We didn’t have the evidence to back up our gut feeling, but we didn’t like seeing them spending every waking moment on a phone or computer. Then, during COVID, the teachers unions locked our kids out of school, and their mental health began to suffer right before our eyes.

Now we’re beginning to see some hard evidence about the negative effects of social media on our young people, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it: Children are suffering because of social media — socially, emotionally, and mentally.

Earlier this year, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stressed that adolescents aren’t ready for social media platforms, and that they’re harmful to their relationships and self-perception. Murthy also issued an advisory in May, citing a link between social media and mental health among young people. “I’m issuing this advisory,” he said, “because we’re in the middle of a youth mental health crisis, and I’m concerned that social media is contributing to the harms that kids are experiencing.”

In addition, a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that social media has a profoundly negative impact on brain development in young people.

With mounting evidence, some states have seen enough, and they’re fighting for our children.

“Dozens of U.S. states filed a lawsuit against Meta and its Instagram social media platform on Tuesday, accusing the multinational technology conglomerate of contributing to the mental health crisis in American youth by making them addicted to its products,” The Daily Wire reports. “Attorneys general from 33 states, including California and New York, filed the complaint in the Northern District of California federal court, claiming Meta violated federal children’s online privacy and state consumer protection laws.”

In part, the lawsuit claims that Meta “has profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans.” Moreover, “Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” 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.”

The states, though, aren’t the only ones going after Mark Zuckerberg’s Big Tech behemoth.

According to National Review: “A Meta whistleblower released documents in 2021 that provided evidence that the company knew Instagram to be addictive and harmful to youth mental health. Since then, the media company has faced many lawsuits filed by school districts and states. Hundreds of school districts are currently suing Meta over concerns that the platforms encourage cyberbullying and distract students.”

Instead of taking responsibility, social media giants such as Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and others are hoping they’ll be protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed by Congress back in 1996, before the Internet had so fully insinuated itself into our lives. The law protects Internet service providers, streaming services, and social media sites from holding any responsibility for third-party content created by their users. Despite efforts by the Justice Department during the Trump administration, little has changed. But school districts are working hard to make their case in court.

“In the new lawsuits,” reports The Wall Street Journal, “school districts and families contend that the social-media companies have created an addictive product that pushes destructive content to youth — and that a product, unlike content, doesn’t enjoy Section 230 protections.”

States taking action include Arkansas and Utah, where children under 13 are banned from accessing social media, while teens under 18 who want to access certain sites need parental approval. Meanwhile, California — the home of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and one-party Democrat rule — passed an Age-Appropriate Design Code to further restrict teens from accessing Meta platforms.

Now that parents, schools, and communities have irrefutable evidence that social media platforms and algorithms are harming our children, it’ll be interesting to see how this battle to protect our kids progresses through the courts. There are measures we can take in the meantime, however — and parents waking up to the dark reality of Meta is an important first step.

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