33 US States Sue Meta Alleging Addictive Instagram Features Targeting Teenagers

By Todd Russell Oct26,2023

Strap in, it’s time to get legal.

Some reading might remember a class action lawsuit against Epic Games over Fortnite having addictive microtransactions targeting children and teens ($245 million FTC settlement alleges Fortnite owner Epic Games used digital dark patterns to charge players for unwanted in-game purchases).

The FTC’s $275 million proposed settlement with Epic Games, owner of Fortnite, alleges the company violated the law by collecting personal information from kids under 13 without parental consent and by enabling voice and text chat by default – an unfair practice that put kids and teens in risky contact with strangers. But to borrow a phrase from advertisers, “But wait! There’s more!” Much, much more in the form of a separate $245 million proposed settlement with Epic Games for using digital dark patterns to bill Fortnite players for unintentional in-game purchases.

Now, dozens of state Attorney Generals are going after Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta for having website features and functions that are “addictive” and target teens via CNBC:

Schwalb said that while he doesn’t think Meta is the only company trying to keep users’ attention with its features, “they do it very, very effectively and to the great detriment of millions of young people and tens of thousands of young people here in the District.”

“All human beings are susceptible to FOMO,” Schwalb said, referring to the fear of missing out. “But particularly 12- to 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids. They’re the ones who are really worried about missing out. All of that is part of the built-in DNA that Meta uses to keep people hooked.”

Ironically — or maybe not — Meta reported an increase in earnings. They have had a good year financially in 2023, pretty much the year they didn’t put as much stock in virtual worlds, other than the launch of the Meta Quest 3 VR, anyway, via Meta Beats Wall Street’s High Expectations, But Stock Falls On Weak Advertising Worries:

Prior to earnings, shares closed trading Wednesday down 4.2% at 299.53. Meta stock has gained 150% this year, making it one of top performers in the S&P 500.

This isn’t specifically a game or gaming-related lawsuit, but this isn’t good news for the maker of the Meta Quest 3, nor for tools that some gamers use to promote and discuss gaming.

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