Lawsuit Alleges Meta Intentionally Created Social Media to Be Addictive—Youth Now Facing ‘Most Serious Mental Health Crisis’

“Powerful corporations who wield unmatched, highly concentrated technology in pursuit of profit are knowingly creating this unprecedented mental health crisis,” the lawsuit asserts.

  • The San Mateo County Board of Education is suing Facebook parent company Meta, claiming the social media company purposely designed its platform to be addictive.
  • Six charges are emphasized in the lawsuit: Public Nuisance, Negligence, Violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Conspiracy to Conduct the Affairs of the Enterprise Through a Pattern of Racketeering Activity, Gross Negligence, and Violations of the California Unfair Competition Law.
  • The Plaintiffs also filed complaints against other popular social media companies Google, Bytedance, and Snap Inc.
  • “This case represents one of the most serious issues facing the nation’s children, adolescents, and teenagers—perhaps the most serious mental health crisis they have ever faced,” the lawsuit begins.
  • Plaintiffs add, “YouTube, Snap, TikTok, Meta and their related companies have carefully cultivated the crisis, which is a feature—not a bug—of their social media products.”
  • The lawsuit continues, “Thanks to the U.S. Congress and concerned whistleblowers, critical facts have recently come to light. Even with only a small glimpse into what the YouTube, Meta, TikTok, and Snap companies know about this crisis, the public can now fairly conclude that the social media Defendants’ conduct was no accident, but rather that Defendants acted knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally.”
  • “Defendants manipulate human psychology using the same techniques deployed by casinos and slot machines,” the plaintiffs state, comparing social media use to dopamine production. “Whether user content receives a “like” or a “heart” or see provocative content, the platform provides a reward.”
  • “Defendants designed and marketed their social media platforms towards youth for profit,” the lawsuit claims. “The profits Defendants seek is a byproduct of a mental health crisis of their own creation. For them, this crisis is nothing more than profitable consumer behavior.”
  • The plaintiffs describe the business practices of Meta-owned social media sites, explaining that “Defendants are in the business of advertising—they make their money by selling ad space to advertisers and by directing users to those ads. Specifically, Defendants collect data from their users’ habits and activities and use that data to inform their advertising activities.”
  • “Youth are a particularly profitable target audience, and Defendants focus much of their advertising energies towards youth,” according to the lawsuit.
  • American Faith reported that pharmaceutical companies are using TikTok influencers to market their products to impressionable youth.
  • A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that “Pharmaceutical companies collaborate with patient influencers for their specialized knowledge and influence on their community of followers.”
  • 18 out of the interviewed 26 influencers (69%) “reported working with for-profit brands and pharmaceutical companies” to some degree, with many promoting a company’s drug to younger audiences.