Idaho joins 32 other states in lawsuit accusing Meta of fueling children’s social media addiction

States say social media company designed Facebook, Instagram to intentionally addict youth and teens

By: - October 24, 2023 2:48 pm
Meta headquarters on April 28, 2022, in Menlo Park, California

A sign is posted in front of Meta headquarters on April 28, 2022, in Menlo Park, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A lawsuit filed by 33 states, including Idaho, accuses Meta of designing Facebook and Instagram to intentionally addict children and teens, in violation of state and federal laws that protect consumers and children’s online privacy.

The states say that Meta knew its platforms psychologically harmed youth but hid those harms and installed even more features like “infinite scroll and near-constant alerts” to fuel youths’ social media addiction, according to a 233-page complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in northern California.

Addicting users serves Meta’s profit motive because the company sells advertisements targeting users, the states allege.

Meta also collected data from underage users without the parental consent federal law requires, according to the lawsuit. And the company routinely published “profoundly misleading reports” assuring the public its products were safe for young users, even though Meta’s internal research linked young people’s social media use to depression, anxiety, insomnia and problems at school and in daily life, the lawsuit charges.

“(The federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) prohibits social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram from enrolling users who are under age 13,” Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador said in a press release. “Today’s lawsuit alleges that Meta knew children used its platforms and the company knowingly collected data from them without parental consent.”

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said states aim to hold Meta and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, accountable for the “deceptive, manipulative practices” that have damaged the potential of a generation of young people by harming their physical and mental health.

“Profits – not people, not its most vulnerable users, children and teens – drive the decision-making at Meta. That stops today,” Platkin said in a statement.

Eight other states filed complaints in their state courts alleging deceptive trade, consumer fraud, unlawful trade, unjust enrichment, negligence, product liability, and public nuisance claims. The multistate coalition that sued Meta also is investigating TikTok for similar practices.

Meta is expanding its use of addictive practices on its new platforms, states argue in complaint

The states are asking a judge to order Meta to stop using its addictive features and pay financial damages.

“Despite overwhelming internal research, independent expert analysis, and publicly available data that its Social Media Platforms harm young users, Meta still refuses to abandon its use of known harmful features — and has instead redoubled its efforts to misrepresent, conceal, and downplay the impact of those features on young users’ mental and physical health,” the lawsuit charges.

The company is even expanding its use of the addictive practices into new platforms and domains, including its Virtual Reality Metaverse, WhatsApp, and Messenger, the states complain.

The states cited five especially “psychologically manipulative” features they say exploit young users’ developing brains, including:

  • Recommendation algorithms the states characterize as “dopamine-manipulating.”
  • “Likes” and social comparison features.
  • Audiovisual and haptic alerts that continually recall users.
  • Visual filter features that promote body dysmorphia.
  • Content-presentation formats, such as infinite scroll, that keep users hooked.

Meta officially bars children under 13 from using its platform, but countless preteens use Facebook and Instagram without consequence from Meta, the lawsuit says.

Tuesday’s lawsuits come three years after Platkin’s office began investigating Meta for features designed to hook young users and push them into “rabbit holes” to keep them online longer.

They also come four months after legislators in the New Jersey Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would fine social media companies that use habit-forming features that entice underage users to develop social media addictions. That bill’s Senate version remains stalled in committee.


The New Jersey Monitor, like the Idaho Capital Sun, is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Follow New Jersey Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dana Difilippo
Dana Difilippo

Dana DiFilippo is a reporter for the New Jersey Monitor. She previously reported for WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.