Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford has announced that his office, assisted by outside counsel, is taking legal action against numerous social media companies alleging the algorithms used by the platforms have been designed deliberately to addict young minds and prey on teenagers’ well-understood vulnerabilities.
This announcement preceded today’s Senate hearing on child exploitation where tech CEO’s were grilled by the bipartisan panel. A viral moment from that hearing featured Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg issuing an apology to the families who have lost children to online exploitation.
Hawley just called on Zuckerberg to apologize directly to the the families in the audience of victims who were impacted by child sexual exploitation on Meta platforms.
Zuck then gets up and does it. pic.twitter.com/YJWCcZDAC7
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 31, 2024
In his announcement, AG Ford alleges TikTok, Snapchat and three Meta-owned platforms, Instagram, Facebook and Messenger have encouraged problematic internet usage and caused young people harms to mental health, body image, physical health, privacy, and physical safety. The complaint further alleges:
All of these platforms use features like endless scrolling, dopamine-inducing rewards, disappearing content, likes, shares, push notifications, and other elements to maximize youth use, manipulate young emotions, and exploit children’s developing minds — all for massive financial gain.
All five of these platforms are enormously popular with young people, and all five are alleged to have sizeable populations of teen users. Further, each platform is alleged to have a large percentage of users under the age of 13, the legal age cutoff for these types of apps. Each of these platforms has also been linked to serious dangers to kids, including auto accidents, increases in drug overdoses, suicides, eating disorders, sexual exploitation and more.
“My commitment to protecting consumers, particularly those that are as vulnerable as our youth, is unwavering,” said AG Ford. “Bringing this litigation is an important step toward ensuring social media platforms put our children’s safety before their profits. I look forward to working closely with our partners to protect the youth of our state.”
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