The state of Utah filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms on Tuesday, marking the second lawsuit from the state against a major social media organization. According to the suit, Meta intentionally designed flagship social media platforms Facebook and Instagram with addictive features, alleging the social platforms contribute to poor mental health in children and teens.
Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General claim Meta’s business practices violate the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act through designs intended to lure in and manipulate young users, giving way to excessive use and adverse impact on mental health in young Utahns.
“Just as litigation effectively spurred change by the opioid pharmaceutical industry and Big Tobacco, we expect this lawsuit will inspire Meta to improve its child safety practices,” Cox said in a press release.
“Regulating social media companies to protect minors is not a partisan issue, and most people across the political spectrum agree we cannot allow addictive algorithms and deceptive practices to continue harming our children. This action shows we will continue to fight for the mental health and well-being of our kids.”
In a statement to KSL.com, a Meta spokesperson said the company shares “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. 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.”
The complaint, filed in Utah’s 3rd District Court, alleges Meta relies on personal data from users to hook young, vulnerable minds on personalized content and “taking advantage of children in the name of profit.”
Two separate counts are noted in the 62-page filing:
Meta crafted addictive features such as “infinite scroll” and “autoplay” to children and teens, resulting in harmful overuse and negative effects on mental health.
In attempts to maintain a positive public image, Meta deceived users through publishing “misleading reports that purported to show impressively low rates of harmful experiences by its users,” per the suit.
“Every burgeoning industry has a moment where they have to recognize the power they possess,” Reyes said in a press release. “We are now seeing a generation that hasn’t known life without Meta’s products. With that growth comes a responsibility to protect our values and communities, particularly our kids. This lawsuit is a first step toward putting guardrails around a company that is in our homes, our schools, and our neighborhoods. I invite Meta to the table to right past wrongs and to take meaningful steps forward.”
Utah’s lawsuit against Meta comes in wake of the state’s recent suit against social media platform TikTok, which lists similar allegations of addictive and harmful use.
“We will look back on this and deeply regret that we didn’t do this sooner,” Cox said, as previously reported by the Deseret News. “It’s one of my regrets that we didn’t do this four or five years ago.”