Meta built its social media business on trapping children in online addiction and then lying about how manipulative its technology could be, more than three dozen attorneys general allege.
Several new heavily redacted lawsuits claim Meta’s primary products — Instagram and Facebook — have “profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans” using “psychologically manipulative product features to induce young users’ compulsive and extended use.”
“Through its development of Instagram and Facebook, Meta created a business model focused on maximizing young users’ time and attention spent on its Social Media Platforms,” the attorneys general wrote.
Tools like “dopamine-manipulating recommendation algorithms,” “‘Likes’ and social comparison features,” “audiovisual and haptic alerts,” “visual filter features known to promote young users’ body dysmorphia,” and “content-presentation formats” often referred to as “doomscrolling,” the attorneys general claim, are all wielded by Facebook and Instagram as a means to keep users, especially underage ones, engaged on their app.
Since the inception of these social media sites, these technologies have proven “harmful and psychologically manipulative,” but Meta continues using them to hook people into posting, commenting, liking, and scrolling away their time.
The top legal officers, some of whom demanded in 2021 that Facebook censor dissidents more than it already does, claimed that Meta knew of the harms its technology posed to young users but proceeded to build its platforms around those tools anyway.
“Meta was aware that young users’ developing brains are particularly vulnerable to certain forms of manipulation, and it chose to exploit those vulnerabilities through targeted features,” the attorneys general continued.
Their accusation is predicated on the word of whistleblower Frances Haugen, a radical Democrat activist and Hunter Biden laptop censor, who leaked some of Facebook’s internal reports suggesting the same in 2021. The argument is also furthered by tech moguls’ decisions to keep their kids away from the popular social media apps they created.
“Instead of acknowledging and remedying the harms associated with these unlawful practices, Meta appears to be expanding the use of these practices into new Platforms and domains,” the attorneys general wrote.
In Meta’s quest to target younger users, the attorneys general allege that the Big Tech company illegally collected young children’s data without parental permission, violating at least one federal children’s online privacy statute.
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” the attorneys general wrote. “Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its Social Media Platforms.”
The latest round of lawsuits against Meta isn’t the first time the Big Tech company has come under scrutiny for its secrecy and manipulation tactics. Facebook and Instagram were two of the many social media platforms to partner with the federal government to limit what Americans saw about certain topics online over the last three years.