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Facebook owner Meta sued over 'harm to children'

SAN FRANCISCO, California: Dozens of US states on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) accused Facebook and Instagram owner Meta of profiting «from children's pain,» damaging their mental health and misleading people about the safety of its platforms.

«In seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its Social Media Platforms,» argued a joint lawsuit filed in federal court in California.

In total, more than 40 states are suing Meta, though some opted to file in local courts rather than join in the federal case.

Meta has exploited young users by creating a business model designed to maximize the time they spend on the platform despite harm to their health, the legal filing argued.

«Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health, and social media companies like Meta are to blame,» said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement announcing the suit.

«Meta has profited from children's pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.» The suit accuses Meta of deceptive and unlawful conduct harming vulnerable youth for financial gain.

The suit urges the federal court to order Meta to stop manipulative tactics and pay hefty financial penalties along with restitution, according to James.

«Social media companies, including Meta, have contributed to a national youth mental health crisis, and they must be held accountable,» James said.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy early this year urged action to make sure social media environments are not hurting young users.

«We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis — one that we must urgently address,» Murthy said in an issued advisory.

A few states have passed laws barring social media from allowing minors without parental permission.

Industry issue?

Meta said it was «disappointed» by the suit and that the states were not working with the array of social media companies to create age-appropriate standards.

Meta maintained that it had developed