Instagram sued over mental health concerns

The social media platform is accused of ‘ensnaring’ young US users for profit.

The attorneys general of 41 US states and Washington, DC have filed a federal lawsuit against Instagram and its parent company Meta, accusing the popular social media platform of contributing to an ongoing mental health crisis among young people.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” says the legal complaint, which was filed in federal court in California on Tuesday, adding that “its motive is profit.”

The lawsuit alleges that Meta has purposely enticed young people into compulsive social media use by adopting various methods to ensure that they spend as much time as possible using the service. This is despite Meta being aware that young people are more susceptible to requiring approval from their peers, often in the form of ‘likes’ of their content online, the claim adds.

“Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis and they must be held accountable,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the officials who have signed the lawsuit.

It also alleges that Meta has engaged in “deceptive” methods to withhold the dangers of its product, breaking consumer protection laws in the process, as well as claiming that it collects user data on children under the age of 13 – a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

In response, Meta said in a statement that it was “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.” Meta added that it had “already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.”

Meta, along with various other social media companies, is already facing hundreds of lawsuits in the United States from families and school districts over its negative impact on the development of young people. However, the suits filed on Tuesday represent the biggest legal action to date.

Earlier this year, a lawsuit was brought by lawyers representing more than 100 families in the US against various social media companies, including Meta, Snapchat and TikTok, which claimed that their products were harming young people. The case is ongoing.

In March of last year, a Russian court banned Facebook and Instagram across the country, saying their parent company Meta was “extremist.” In a hearing, Moscow’s security services accused Meta of fostering an “alternative reality” in which “hatred for Russians was rekindled.” It was also claimed that the social network was painting a false narrative about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

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