[In the player above, watch previous FOX 8 News coverage of Ohio’s new law requiring social media companies to get their parents’ permission before children sign up.]
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — Attorneys general of 33 states, including Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost, have sued the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging the social media platforms are damaging young Americans’ mental health and that they’re specifically designed to be addictive.
The lawsuit, filed in a California federal court, argues the platforms’ parent company Meta “concealed” their psychological harms to youngsters and fueled what the U.S. Surgeon General has deemed a “youth mental health crisis,” according to a Tuesday news release. Meta’s assurances the platforms are safe for young users may also be a violation of state consumer laws, the lawsuit alleges.
“Given that children, when they’re on these platforms, become vulnerable to cyberbullying and online predators, Meta has added insult to injury, further injuring our children,” Yost is quoted in the release. “I trust that the parents within Meta itself might reconsider these practices, but, until then, initiating lawsuits should compel the company to change its ways.”
The lawmen believe Meta sought to gain financially by deliberately hooking teens and tweens to the platforms’ never-ending streams of content. The lawsuit alleges Meta’s algorithms push users into “rabbit holes,” and that features like infinite scrolling and “near-constant” alerts help keep them glued to the screen.
The lawsuit also alleges the platforms served those children mentally and emotionally damaging content — “including material associated with eating disorders, violence, negative self-perception and body-image issues and bullying,” reads the release.
The complaint also argues Meta may have violated federal online privacy laws designed to protect children by collecting data from users 12 and younger without their parents’ consent.
Attorneys general in another eight states have also filed similar lawsuits in their respective state courts. Florida’s attorney general is also filing a separate lawsuit in one of its federal district courts.
Ohio’s new social media rule takes effect in 2024
Included in the state’s most recent biennium budget was language requiring operators of services targeted at children, such as social media platforms, to require parents’ consent before signing up a child younger than 16.
“Social media companies need to include parents in the decision-making process,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in March. “You can’t go around moms and dads with the manipulative algorithms, collecting data on our children without our knowledge.”
To verify, new users younger than 16 would need to sign a digital form, give a debit or credit card or some other form of online payment, call a toll-free number, connect to a trained worker via video call or check a form on a government-issued ID, he said.
The new rule takes effect on Jan. 15, 2024.