Home Technology Nevada files lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat and TikTok: ‘Hazard to public health’

Nevada files lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat and TikTok: ‘Hazard to public health’

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Nevada files lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat and TikTok: ‘Hazard to public health’

The state of Nevada is suing some of the most popular social media companies, alleging that their apps are intentionally addictive and have contributed to a decline in mental health for its users, especially teens and young adults.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford filed civil lawsuits Tuesday against the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Snapchat and TikTok apps, claiming they are a “hazard to public health” and that they use “false, deceptive and unfair marketing” to directly appeal to youth. The lawsuit also says the respective apps’ algorithms are “designed deliberately to addict young minds and prey on teenagers’ well-understood vulnerabilities.”

“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,” the attorney general’s office alleged in a news release, announcing the lawsuits. “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. Bringing this litigation is an important step toward ensuring social media platforms put our children’s safety before their profits,” Ford, a Democrat, said Tuesday.

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Ford alleges in the filing that these apps can potentially be more hazardous to mental health than even some drugs as the apps lack a natural breakpoint where the content runs out. ((Photo Illustration by Onur Dogman/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Ford, alongside private law firms, filed the civil suit in Clark County District Court.

At the root of the filing is what is commonly known about these social media apps: companies make money by advertising on the apps, so they utilize aggressive algorithms to capture and keep users on the apps longer, so the companies can make more revenue via the ads.

One result of addictive content is “doom-scrolling,” or when users spend more time than intended to see what new content the algorithm provides. These apps often prioritize engaging content, such as short videos, that have produced lots of reactions. This keeps the users in a pattern of gaining quick satisfaction before moving into the next one, and the next one.

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Ford alleges in the filing that these apps can potentially be more hazardous to mental health than even some drugs as the apps are ceaseless.

Aaron Ford

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford speaks about 2024 election security at the Clark County Election Department on Jan. 10, 2024, in North Las Vegas.  (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images / Getty Images)

While physical drugs have a natural break point to their usage, the social media apps do not. A user “can spend an infinite amount of their time” on the apps and can become trapped in “a bottomless pit” as the content flows endlessly onto their devices, the lawsuit alleges. This endlessness exacerbates the addiction and its subsequent effects such as problematic internet usage, mental health, body image, physical health and online security.

And, children are disproportionately impacted.

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While the apps each feature age-limits, requiring users to be at least 13 years old or older, children can easily navigate the apps and create accounts to access the content.

“In effect, the Defendants are conducting a potentially society-altering experiment on a generation of Young Users’ developing brains,” the lawsuit alleges. “While this experiment’s full impact may not be realized for decades, the early returns are alarming.”

A person holds a phone with social media apps on the screen

While these popular socia media apps each feature age-limits, requiring users to be at least 13 years old or older, children can easily create new accounts. ((Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Meta announced it would be implementing new protections to give teens “more age-appropriate experiences on our apps.”

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These changes include “hiding more types of content for teens on Instagram and Facebook, in line with expert guidance,” the Facebook-parent company said.

“We want teens to have safe, age-appropriate experiences on our apps,” Meta said in a news release. “We’ve developed more than 30 tools and resources to support teens and their parents, and we’ve spent over a decade developing policies and technology to address content that breaks our rules or could be seen as sensitive.

FOX Business reached out to Meta and Snap but did not immediately receive a response.

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