In what Attorney General Charity Clark is calling a nationwide teen mental health crisis, she and other attorney’s general announced they’re suing Instagram and its parent company Meta.
The group of top prosecutors allege the platform highly contributes to youth mental health, and say Instagram was designed with addictive features. The lawsuit also accuses Meta of falsely advertising the photo sharing app as safe.
“It exposes young people to an array of harmful experiences,” said Clark on Tuesday.
New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella joined Clark in filing in state court. “Our complaint represents a clear message to Meta, that New Hampshire will not allow it to profit at the expense of our kids,” said Formella.
New York Attorney General Letitia James joined a federal lawsuit on the same topic, just weeks after the Empire State proposed legislation to reduce social media risks.
Meta, which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp, is accused of designing Instagram to be used “compulsively and excessively.”
Clark’s office wrote, “Instagram’s algorithms push users into descending ‘rabbit holes’ to maximize engagement. Meta designed features, like infinite scroll and numerous daily alerts, specifically to hook young users.”
Vermont’s complaint alleges Meta’s conduct violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
ABC 22/FOX 44 reached out to Meta for comment. A spokesperson wrote back:
“We share 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 United States Surgeon General released a May report finding that certain content on social media can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, sleep problems, eating disorders, and even suicidal thoughts. The report offers advice on how to protect yourself and your children on social media, including creating boundaries, limiting use of phones, helping kids develop social skills, and encouraging offline activities.
Clark said social media could also expose young people to “negative social comparison, bullying, and unwanted sexual advances, including from strangers.”
42 Attorney’s General in total are seeking damages. For Vermont, that’s $10,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act, per consumer.
“Meta maintains Instagram publicly promotes the narrative that Instagram is neither addictive nor harmful to teens,” noted Clark.
Meta notes social media is not the sole contributor to teens’ mental health. It says it also uses age verification technology to craft age-appropriate online experiences.
Clark has no estimation of how long this process could take but aims to hold Meta accountable for what she says is Instagram’s contribution to the teen mental health crisis.