SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The State of Utah officially filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging the social media giant traps children into excessive and harmful use.
State officials say the company’s business practices violate the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act and deceive parents and young users about the safety of using both Instagram and Facebook.
“Just as litigation effectively spurred change by the opioid pharmaceutical industry and Big Tobacco, we expect this lawsuit will inspire Meta to improve its child safety practices,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. “Regulating social media companies to protect minors is not a partisan issue, and most people across the political spectrum agree we cannot allow addictive algorithms and deceptive practices to continue harming our children.”
According to the lawsuit, which can be seen in its entirety below, Meta’s “unlawful business practices” lure young users into extended use of its platforms. The State alleges this allows the company to “siphon important data and attention” while putting targeted revenue-generating ads in front of children. Gov. Cox’s office said the lawsuit builds off of information leaked in September 2021, showing Meta put “profits over safety.”
“Over the past decade, Meta – itself and through its flagship social media products Facebook and Instagram – has profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans, harnessing powerful and unprecedented technologies to ensnare youth to the detriment of their mental health,” the lawsuit reads.
Utah is asking the courts to force Meta into compliance with Utah State Code and to pay restitution to Utah and in civil penalities “well in excess of $300,000.”
“Every burgeoning industry has a moment where they have to recognize the power they possess,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “We are now seeing a generation that hasn’t known life without Meta’s products. With that growth comes a responsibility to protect our values and communities, particularly our kids.”
The lawsuit against Meta comes off the heels of a similar lawsuit filed against TikTok. Two weeks ago, Cox and Reyes announced a lawsuit against TikTok to “change [its] destructive behavior” toward children.
During a press conference earlier this month, Gov. Cox warned of further litigation against social media companies, but at the time did not specify when the State would file or who would be targeted.
“This action shows we will continue to fight for the mental health and well-being of our kids,” said Cox.
The Associated Press reports Utah is joined by 32 other States in suing Meta, including California and New York.