An unsealed lawsuit claims that Meta was well aware that it had legions of Instagram users under the supposed minimum age of 13.
“Tweens want access to Instagram, and they lie about their age to get it now,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an internal company chat in November 2021, according to the lawsuit.
According to The New York Times, a month after making that statement, Mosseri told a Senate panel, “If a child is under the age of 13, they are not permitted on Instagram.”
The lawsuit was initially filed with the evidence against Meta redacted but an updated complaint was released last week, the Times reported.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 24 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the attorney generals of 33 states, said Meta has known for years that it had users below the age of 13 and was proud of that.
“Within the company, Meta’s actual knowledge that millions of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed and zealously protected from disclosure to the public,” the complaint said.
“Despite its public-facing claims that users under the age of 13 are not allowed on Instagram, including in congressional testimony provided by Meta executive Davis in September 2021, Meta’s private internal documents reveal that Meta has coveted and pursued the under-13 Instagram user demographic for years,” the lawsuit said, referring to September 2021 testimony by Meta executive Antigone Davis.
The lawsuit quotes what it said was “an internal Meta document from 2018” that said, “[W]e do very little to keep U13s off our platform.”
It said a chart used to measure Instagram’s “Monthly Active People Penetration” showed 20 to 60 percent penetration in the 11- to 13-year-old age range.
Meta “can estimate that there were 4M[illion] people under 13 in 2015 on IG [in the US]. This represents around 30% of all 10-12 year old[s] in the US,” the lawsuit quoted a Meta document as saying.
It quoted an internal email from 2018 as saying, “The lifetime value of a 13 y/o teen is roughly $270 per teen.”
The lawsuit said the company did not want to know if users were under 13.
“Meta has a policy of automatically ignoring certain external reports that Instagram users are under 13 years old. After Meta receives a report that an Instagram user is under 13 years old, Meta’s policy is to allow the user to continue using their Instagram account and disregard the report if the account does not contain a user bio or photos,” the lawsuit said.
It said Meta knew that between 2019 and 2023, more than 1.1 million Instagram users were under 13, but the platform disabled the accounts of “only a fraction” of them.
The lawsuit said Meta possessed a survey that showed out of 3,983 children responding, 22 percent of kids between 6 to 9 and 35 percent of those between 10 and 12 used Instagram.
In an opinion piece Saturday in the New York Post, Rikki Schlott wrote that “Instagram has devastated youth mental health — and, according to newly unsealed court filings, its parent company Meta knew exactly what they were doing.”
She said the $270 lifetime value the lawsuit said Meta put on a 13-year-old user was a global average, writing that “American teens are 10 times more valuable.”
In picking through the vast haul of internal Meta data revealed in the lawsuit, Schlott emphasized that “Meta’s own data also revealed a third of teen girls say Instagram makes their body image worse, and that 17% said it worsened eating issues.”
“It’s time the truth comes out,” she wrote. “And, as a Gen Zer who has been on social media since my tween years, I’m heartened to see a bipartisan coalition of nearly every attorney general in the United States banding together in defense of youth mental health.
“Companies like Meta who are knowingly perpetuating suffering need to be held to account — not just for the teens they’ve harmed but also for the next generation who might be spared the same fate.”
States in the lawsuit against Meta were Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to a news release from California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
“Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” Bonta said in a statement.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.