A legal battle is brewing for Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, as 34 U.S. states have united to file a lawsuit against it.
The lawsuit levels allegations against Meta for the inappropriate manipulation of underage platform users, with potential negative consequences for these minors.
The attorneys representing the states are pursuing various forms of damages, restitution, and compensation for each state mentioned in the legal document.
The requested amounts vary, with figures ranging from USD$5,000 to USD$25,000 for each purported incident.
This development coincides with the rapid progress in Artificial Intelligence, particularly in the realms of text and generative AI.
Concerns from Social Media
Legal representatives from a range of states, notably California, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, and Louisiana, assert that Meta employs its algorithms to promote addictive patterns and adversely affect the mental health of minors.
New York Attorney General, Letitia James, released a statement:
“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame. Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”
In an X (formerly known as Twitter) post, Letitia James posted:
Earlier this year, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also urged the implementation of measures to ensure that social media platforms do not pose harm to the young users.
“And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address.”
United Nations Effort
Certainly, as technology continues to progress, social media has become an integral part of our daily routine.
While social media facilitates rapid and efficient information exchange, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) acknowledges the inherent risks associated with the online world, especially with easy access for children.
The Regional Director of UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, Karin Hulshoft, said:
“Social media provides children with huge opportunities, but it also exposes them to risks and these risks are growing. Denying them access to social media is not the answer to protect children from risk and harm. We need to understand the risks children face online, how they use social media, how they perceive the risks they face and what steps, if any, they take to protect themselves. I am confident this report will contribute to shaping discussions and programming on child online protection in the region and to keeping children safe.”
AI Future and Impact
Looking ahead, the future of AI holds both promise and concern for its impact on children.
On the positive side, AI has the potential to revolutionise education, offering personalised learning experiences that cater to individual needs and learning styles.
It can also facilitate the development of interactive and immersive learning tools that make education more engaging and accessible.
However, the overexposure to AI-driven technologies may impede children’s cognitive and social development, leading to a decreased ability to think critically and solve problems independently.
AI-generated content can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and influence children’s behaviours and beliefs, potentially leading to psychological issues and a distorted understanding of reality.
Consider the case of Facebook and Instagram, where children often immerse themselves in tracking their “Likes” and “Views,” leading to potential self-esteem issues if their anticipated validation falls short in the public eye.
This is a core concern echoed in the allegations raised by the different US states against Meta.