More than 30 US states have filed a lawsuit against Meta, regarding the harmful and addictive design of its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. 

Filed on 24 October, the lawsuit alleges that Meta deliberately deployed features on its social media platforms that it knew would be “psychologically and physically harmful” to its younger users. These include features that would promote “compulsive” and “prolonged” daily use, as well as “infinite scroll” features that autoplay content. 

The states also complained about the disruptive notifications of Meta’s social media platforms, which they claim cause younger users and children to “over-engage” with Facebook and Instagram. 

Alongside design and notifications, the lawsuit further claims that Meta’s collection and use of user data was being used to find ways of promoting user engagement. 

California attorney general Rob Bonta addressed journalists during a virtual press conference alongside the other states involved. 

“We refuse to allow Meta to trample on our children’s mental and physical health, all to promote its products and increase its profits,” Bonta said.

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“We refuse to allow the company to feign ignorance of the harm it’s causing, we refuse to let it continue business as usual.” 

On 17 October, Meta’s addictive social media design came under further scrutiny in California court when a judge presiding over a lawsuit by parents and minors against the company threw out all other claims made against Meta except its addictive design process

Senior analyst at GlobalData, Amelia Connor-Afflick, in response to this news, stated that social media companies were under increasing pressure over their addictive and harmful products. Chasing views and user engagement, she said that many social media platforms had algorithms that potentially pushed concerning or extreme content onto the screens of their younger users. 

“Academic research has found that social media is addictive. Interactions can release dopamine and trigger the same feedback loop in the brain that other addictions stimulate,” she explained.