A significant legal challenge looms over Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, as a coalition of 42 US attorneys general initiates legal proceedings. As reported by CNBC, their accusations center around Meta’s alleged use of addictive processes to engage and retain young users on its social apps.
The case, filed by attorneys general from 33 states, accuses Meta of deliberately crafting its algorithms, alerts, and notifications to ensnare young users in prolonged app usage and encourage repeated visits. Additionally, the suit contends that Meta’s platform features have negative consequences on teenagers’ mental health through social comparison, while also accusing the company of breaching the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data from users under 13.
The coalition seeks to end these alleged practices and impose appropriate penalties and restitution. The outcome of this legal action could have significant ramifications for Meta’s business.
Meta is expected to defend its actions, highlighting its adherence to legal standards and the safeguards in place to protect younger users. Nevertheless, the case’s progression may lead to potential penalties and restrictions on Meta’s operations.
A critical element may be the triggering of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with addiction. Social platforms implement features that trigger dopamine release, potentially leading to addictive behaviors.
While it’s challenging to prove that social media apps induce the same level of response as addictive substances, a growing body of academic research underscores the negative impacts of extensive social media usage. Any legal debate on the matter will likely extend over an extended period, potentially leading to solutions like algorithmic opt-outs or increased platform regulation.
This lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions targeting social media apps concerning their impact on young users. Recently, TikTok faced a $370 million fine over child data privacy breaches of EU laws.