Massachusetts Attorney General Joins Lawsuit Alleging Facebook and Instagram ‘Prey’ On Minors

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Massachusetts’s attorney general issuing the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, claiming the company is “preying upon young people’s unique psychological vulnerabilities.”

Meta Platforms Inc. “has tailored its platforms’ features to manipulate and exploit their developing brains in a way that ensures they return incessantly to its platforms and then stay on, for longer periods of time, over and over,” according to a complaint filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.

Andrea Campbell, the state attorney general, has also joined a federal lawsuit filed by 42 state attorneys general in the Northern District of California.

Campbell said she supports the lawsuit as an effort to prevent Meta, via its control of Facebook and Instagram, from employing what she called “unfair and misleading” tactics to target minors, according to a press release issued by her office.

“Meta preys on our young people and has chosen to profit by knowingly targeting and exploiting their vulnerabilities. In doing so, Meta has significantly contributed to the ongoing mental health crisis among our children and teenagers,” Campbell said in the written statement. “Because Meta has shown that it will not act responsibly unless it is required to do so by courts of law, my colleagues and I are taking action today — and will continue to push for meaningful changes to Meta’s platforms that protect our young people.”

The federal lawsuit complaint, a 233-page document, asserts that Meta “knowingly designed” features on Instagram and Facebook that are harmful and foster addiction among young children and adolescents.

“The complaint alleges that Meta secretly utilizes design features that deliberately exploit and capitalize off young users’ unique vulnerabilities and overcome young people’s ability to self-regulate their time spent on its platform. Such features include the ‘infinite scroll,’ near-constant notifications and alerts, autoplay Stories and Reels, features designed to create a sense of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out), and ‘intermittent variable rewards’ mechanisms similar to those used by slot machines,” Campbell’s office said in the press release.

The lawsuit also claims that Meta habitually gathers data from children under the age of 13 without notifying parents or obtaining their consent, violating federal law. It also contends that Meta has issued misleading public reports indicating low instances of negative and harmful user experiences among children.

Meta said it would prefer that the government create clearer laws around teen social media use rather than sue the company. 

“We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families,” Meta told NewBostonPost in a statement sent by email. “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.”


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