Meta allegedly exploited underage users

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is under fire as attorneys general from 33 states accuse it of knowingly allowing children under 13 to use its platforms, violating privacy laws. The unsealed lawsuit claims Meta collected personal data from underage users without parental consent, breaching the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. The complaint alleges that Meta, despite receiving over a million reports of underage users, only disabled a fraction of those accounts. This legal challenge adds pressure on Meta amid concerns about its algorithms steering children towards harmful content and negatively impacting their mental health.

“The unsealed lawsuit claims Meta violated a range of state-based consumer protection statutes as well as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), which prohibits companies from collecting the personal information of children under 13 without a parent’s consent.” Source/ Internet.


Violation of Privacy Laws

The lawsuit claims Meta knowingly violated consumer protection statutes and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) by collecting personal information from children under 13 without obtaining parental consent. Despite Meta’s claim that it prohibits users under 13, the lawsuit argues that the company’s own records reveal the presence of millions of underage users on Instagram. The legal action seeks court orders to prohibit Meta from continuing these practices, with potential civil penalties reaching hundreds of millions of dollars.

Algorithmic Impact on Mental Health

Internal communications cited in the lawsuit reveal Meta’s awareness of its algorithms steering children toward harmful content that impacts mental well-being. Meta researchers conducted a study concluding that Instagram’s algorithm could amplify negative social comparison and content causing users to feel worse about their bodies. Despite concerns raised by employees, the lawsuit alleges Meta refused to change its algorithm, citing the engaging nature of content inciting negative appearance comparisons.

Denial and Accountability

Meta has denied the allegations, stating that verifying the age of online users, particularly those under 13, is a complex challenge. The company supports federal legislation requiring parental approval for teens under 16 to download apps. While facing accusations of contributing to a national youth mental health crisis, Meta argues that the complaint mischaracterizes its efforts and uses selective quotes. The lawsuit is part of a broader legal challenge resulting from a multistate investigation into Meta’s impact on young people’s mental health, initiated in 2021.

“Internal communications cited in the lawsuit reveal Meta’s awareness of its algorithms steering children toward harmful content that impacts mental well-being.” Source/ Internet.

The legal battle puts Meta in a precarious position as it navigates allegations of exploiting underage users and knowingly allowing privacy violations. The outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for Meta’s practices and its responsibility to protect young users on its platforms.

See also: Consumer Spending: Navigating Challenges Ahead


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