In a significant display of legal force, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, the company once known as Facebook, is under heavy fire from 42 U.S. states. They’re alleging that the tech behemoth has been intentionally rolling out addictive features on Facebook and Instagram, leading to a surge in mental health issues among the young population. While this concerted action against Meta is noteworthy, it raises the pressing question: Why has similar action not been initiated against the controversial Chinese-owned app, TikTok, notorious for its questionable impact on the youth?
BREAKING: Forty-two states are taking action against Meta, formerly known as Facebook, for allegedly harming young people's mental health. https://t.co/SKTSYki1lp
— ABC News (@ABC) October 24, 2023
Delving deeper into one of these lawsuits, we learn that 33 states are accusing Meta of crafting Facebook and Instagram features with the malicious intent of hooking youngsters. Apart from these, another nine states, through their attorneys general, are launching their lawsuits. All of this information is courtesy of an Associated Press report.
The principal bone of contention is Meta’s alleged practice of gathering data on children below the age of 13 without obtaining parental consent. This practice, if true, is a direct infringement of federal regulations. Moreover, the lawsuit points a stern finger at Meta, indicting it for being a significant player in the worsening youth mental health scenario.
Citing from the lawsuit, “Meta has masterfully employed groundbreaking technologies not just to draw in but also ensnare our youth. It’s clear that profit takes precedence for them, and their pursuit of financial windfalls has led to the suppression of the grave risks their platforms pose. They’re accused of leveraging these platforms to exploit the most susceptible – our children.”
Such accusations did not appear out of the blue. They’re the culmination of a thorough investigation by a united front of attorneys general. As New York’s Attorney General Letitia James rightly puts it, “Record-breaking mental health issues among the youth have social media giants like Meta at their epicenter.” The tech giant, however, was quick to defend its stance, expressing their allegiance to the wellbeing of teens online. They lamented the legal action, stressing the need for collaboration across industries for establishing clear standards for teen-appropriate content.
However, the striking omission here is the palpable silence over TikTok. Despite compelling evidence about TikTok’s detrimental influence on its young user base and its ulterior motives that could potentially border on espionage and electoral interference, most U.S. states have stayed their hand. It’s essential to note that TikTok has repeatedly been flagged for promoting perilous trends that have, in some instances, culminated in tragic outcomes.
While some states like Montana have made commendable strides in banning TikTok, deeming it a pawn of “the Chinese Communist Party”, one can’t help but wonder why a broader coalition isn’t forming against this controversial platform.