🔵 Instagram and Facebook targeted kids with harmful features, a new lawsuit claims

🔵 NJ officials say Meta put profits ahead of the mental health of young people

🔵 TikTok is under investigation for similar conduct

TRENTON — New Jersey has joined dozens of other states in suing Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, claiming the tech giant knowingly pushes features harmful to kids.

The federal lawsuit filed in California claims that Meta knew its platforms were harmful to young people, including their ability to get adequate sleep. But the company continued to design features that would be addictive to children, further fueling what the U.S. Surgeon General has deemed a "youth mental health crisis" throughout the country, authorities said.

The ongoing crisis has "damaged the potential of a generation of young people" and even ended lives, the NJ Attorney General's Office said announcing the lawsuit.

The mental health of children has never been more at risk than in the era of social media, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said.

An iPhone displays a Facebook page
An iPhone displays a Facebook page (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

"That is why today, I join dozens of other Attorneys General to once and for all hold Meta and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, accountable for deceptive, manipulative practices on Instagram and Facebook that they knew were harmful. Profits – not people, not its most vulnerable users, children and teens – drive the decision-making at Meta. That stops today," Platkin said.

Meta collecting kids' private data, lawsuit claims

Instagram and Facebook also knowingly and in violation of federal law collected the private data of users that the companies knew were under 13 years old, the OAG said.

This went on behind the scenes while Meta publically disavowed the practice of targeting the "vulnerable, but untapped" demographic, according to officials and a Wall Street Journal report.

Addictive features to keep kids hooked

Instagram and Facebook use several features to keep children on the platform for as long as possible to maximize engagement despite the impact it would have on them, the states claim.

Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are are displayed on an iPhone
Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps are are displayed on an iPhone (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

The infinite scroll allows users to get a constant feed of new content. Aza Raskin, who created the feature in 2006, said to the BBC that the feature was designed to be as addicting as possible.

“If you don't give your brain time to catch up with your impulses... you just keep scrolling," Raskin said.

The platforms also regularly push alerts with the intent of hooking young users, according to the OAG.

TikTok facing investigation

TikTok, which has similar features such as infinite scroll, is also under investigation. The Chinese-controlled app has refused to provide information despite requests from multiple states, according to the OAG.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Meta violated federal and state law by pushing these harmful features, according to the suit.

The lawsuit against Meta seeks monetary compensation and injunctive relief.

Report a correction 👈 | 👉 Contact our newsroom

Competitive NJ school board races fall 2023

In time for November elections, 1,804 board of education candidates have been registered around New Jersey, for a total of 1,487 open seats.

These are not evenly spread — some boards have zero candidates for an available spot, while others have more than three candidates vying for each seat. The following competitive races are based on data from the New Jersey School Board Association.

Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt

How much your school district gets under Murphy's proposed 2024 budget

Gov. Phil Murphy's porposed 2024 budget includes $1 billion in new spending for school funding including pre-K funding, pension and benefits, and an additional $832 million in K-12 aid, which is listed below by county and district.

Gallery Credit: Sergio Bichao/New Jersey 101.5

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM