For years, social media has been scrutinized and criticized as one of the driving forces behind youth bullying, self-esteem issues, and poor mental health. Now, a federal lawsuit and subsequent state lawsuits have targeted Meta, the corporate owner of Facebook and Instagram, for employing dangerous tactics and features for drawing teenagers and children into its social media apps. The lawsuits suggest that the specific methods of encouraging continued use have contributed to a deterioration of mental health in its users.
To help regulate the influence of social media platforms, New York legislators have proposed ideas that would allow them to oversee algorithms that target younger users. The legislation would allow the government to maintain a level of control over Meta and any similar social media companies. According to the lawsuit, the features that have shown to negatively impact teenagers and children include content suggestions and alerts that promote compulsive revisiting of the apps, “like” features that may influence the need to compare, and editing tools that allow users to filter images. The latter example may prove to contribute to body dysmorphia and the possible damage of physical health. These arguably deceptive techniques for promoting obsessive, around-the-clock use violate federal and state law.
To the contrary, Meta has responded to the claims presented in the lawsuit and contends that the technology is geared toward protecting youth users and offering options for parental controls. For example, teenagers and children may undergo age verification steps, may limit their susceptibility to the widespread exposure of sensitive content, and may utilize Quiet Mode and Take A Break tools that remind them to take social media breaks. If a younger user searches for or posts content that involves eating disorders or self-harm, expert resources and family support tools are available. Law makers have countered these efforts with the claim that Meta has known about the effects of social media for quite some time.