Minnesota among coalition of states suing Meta for harming youth mental health

Minnesota is one of dozens of states taking part in a lawsuit described as a “bipartisan coalition” against Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta Platforms.

The lawsuit claims in both state and federal court filings that Meta “knowingly designed and deployed harmful features” that “purposefully addict children and teens” while assuring the public that these features are safe for young users.

The federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California asserts that Meta’s business practices violate state consumer protection laws and the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). It also states that prosecutors will seek “injunctive and monetary relief to rectify the harms these platforms caused.”

The news release from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office also references a report from the U.S. surgeon general that points to the “youth mental health crisis” being fueled by Meta’s practices.

The bipartisan coalition alleges that Meta misled the public about the harms associated with the platforms and concealed the extent of psychological damage suffered by young people who were addicted to them.

The criminal complaint also accuses Meta of collecting data on users younger than 18 without their parents’ consent.

The news release states that the platform algorithms were designed to push users into “rabbit holes” that would maximize user engagement with features such as “infinite scroll and near-constant alerts” that were meant to hook children and teenagers.

The lawsuit alleges that Meta also knew about the harmful effects on young people’s mental health and that it preyed on their “biologically limited capacity for self-control” but still claimed the platform was safe. The harmful effects include sleep disruption, depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorders and altered psychological and neurological development, prosecutors say.

Minnesota Attorney General Kieth Ellison released the following statement on the lawsuit:

“It’s my job to protect Minnesotans, especially the most vulnerable. Meta is very intentionally trying to manipulate our children and teens into spending as much time on their platforms as possible, despite knowing this is causing serious harm. Meta’s efforts to addict our young people and sacrifice their well-being for engagement is disgraceful, predatory, and illegal. I’m joining a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to hold them accountable for it.”

Minnesota Attorney General Kieth Ellison

This lawsuit is the result of an investigation that began in 2021.

Ellison also joined a nationwide investigation into the social media platform TikTok’s impact on youth mental health last year.

State attorneys generals from Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin are all part of the federal lawsuit.

Florida is filing its own federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Attorneys general for the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont are filing lawsuits in their own state courts.