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The state alleges that the parent company of Facebook and Instagram has violated Utah's Consumer Sales Practices Act, by 'designing the platforms to trap children in excessive, harmful use that causes serious mental health issues.'
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of both Facebook and Instagram, continuing the trend of attempting to hold social media companies accountable.
The state alleges that the social media conglomerate, the parent company of Facebook, has violated Utah’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, by “designing the platforms to trap children in excessive, harmful use that causes serious mental health issues.” Cox and Reyes also claim that Meta has deceived parents and young users about the safety of using either Instagram or Facebook.
The move to sue Meta comes two weeks after Gov. Cox’s and Attorney General Reyes’s announcement that Utah is suing TikTok for baiting children into addictive and unhealthy use.
The Utah Consumers Sales Practices Act, enacted in 1973, is a law intended to protect consumers in Utah from deceptive, fraudulent and unfair business practices.
“Just as litigation effectively spurred change by the opioid pharmaceutical industry and Big Tobacco, we expect this lawsuit will inspire Meta to improve its child safety practices,” Cox said.
“Regulating social media companies to protect minors is not a partisan issue, and most people across the political spectrum agree we cannot allow addictive algorithms and deceptive practices to continue harming our children. This action shows we will continue to fight for the mental health and well-being of our kids.”
The complaint has been filed in Utah’s third judicial court, and comes after a multi-year nationwide investigation, which includes 42 state attorneys general.
The Division of Consumer Protection of the Utah Department of Commerce argues that Meta created goods with the explicit intent to overwhelm young people with slot machine-like functionality, night and day alerts, and predatory features that blend into an optimal storm for excessive use.
The lawsuit also explains how an alarming increase in the frequency of negative mental health symptoms among Utah children has closely correlated with Meta’s development of these methods and its climb to market dominance.
“Every burgeoning industry has a moment where they have to recognize the power they possess,” said Reyes. “We are now seeing a generation that hasn’t known life without Meta’s products. With that growth comes a responsibility to protect our values and communities, particularly our kids. This lawsuit is a first step toward putting guardrails around a company that is in our homes, our schools and our neighborhoods. I invite Meta to the table to right past wrongs and to take meaningful steps forward.”
According to the allegations made in the complaint, Meta’s business model relies on enticing young users to prolong their engagement with its platforms in order to extract valuable data and attention, all while aiming to deliver highly targeted revenue-generating advertisements.
The latest complaint expands upon the details disclosed in a September 2021 leak, revealing that Meta prioritized financial gains over user safety. It alleges that the company has been aware for years that its business practices have had detrimental effects on the health and well-being of young users.
These new documents, combined with information uncovered during the state’s investigation, sharply contradict the reassuring public reports issued by Meta. Those reports had boasted low rates of negative and harmful incidents while pledging safety and security, especially for young users.
The filing today brings two separate counts, alleging that:
- “Meta has, for years, carefully crafted a highly sophisticated platform to ensure that it effectively captured young children in harmful cycles of excessive use through deceptive and addictive features, all of which constitutes an unconscionable business practice under state law.”
- “While attempting to maintain a public image as a stalwart of child well-being, Meta deceived parents and consumers about the risks of the platform and its attempts to ensnare our children’s attention and experience.”
The complaint recommends that the court impose a penalty and other relief to ensure that Meta and other companies understand the significant consequences of targeting young users in Utah.