California Leads Group of 33 Attorneys General in Lawsuit Against Meta

California Leads Group of 33 Attorneys General in Lawsuit Against Meta

Meta Platforms Inc.'s logo is seen on a smartphone in an illustration picture taken on Oct. 28, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

10/25/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta is leading a coalition of 33 attorneys general in a federal lawsuit against Meta Platforms—the parent company of Facebook and Instagram—accusing the social media giant of using features in the apps that harm children and teens.
As part of the effort, eight of the attorneys general also filed lawsuits against Meta in state courts, Mr. Bonta announced Oct. 24.
The federal and state court actions are the result of a nationwide investigation that started in November 2021.
“Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” Mr. Bonta said in a statement. “With today’s lawsuit, we are drawing the line. We must protect our children and we will not back down from this fight. I am grateful for the collaboration of my fellow state attorneys general in standing up for our children and holding Meta accountable.”
The federal lawsuit alleges that Meta, operated by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has violated federal and state laws, including the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which protects the online privacy of children under 13; California’s False Advertising Law; and California’s Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practices.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a news conference outside of an Amazon distribution facility in San Francisco, California on Nov. 15, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a news conference outside of an Amazon distribution facility in San Francisco, California on Nov. 15, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The claim also alleges Meta violated a variety of other state consumer protection, business, and fair-trade practice laws.
The states are asking the court to end Meta’s practices that they say violate federal and state laws, and for monetary relief, or payment related to damages or attorney fees.
The federal complaint alleges Meta created a business model that focuses on maximizing young users’ time on its platforms. It also alleges the company uses harmful and psychologically manipulative platform features while misleading the public about their safety.
Attorneys general suing the company also claim Meta publishes reports showing misleading low rates of user harms, and despite overwhelming evidence, the company refuses to address such while continuing to conceal and downplay its platforms’ adverse effects, according to Mr. Bonta.
States joining California in the lawsuit are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Florida is filing its own federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. It is joined by the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont, which have filed related actions in their state courts.
California’s attorney general also has an ongoing investigation into TikTok for alleged harms to youth. On March 5, Mr. Bonta filed an amicus brief to support efforts to compel the social media company to produce materials and evidence under subpoena.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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