Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office announced Tuesday that it had filed civil lawsuits against five major social media platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat and three Meta-owned platforms: Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger, over allegations that algorithms used by the platforms have been “designed deliberately to addict young minds and prey on teenagers’ well-understood vulnerabilities.”
The lawsuits, filed in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County with three other private law firms, are brought solely by the state of Nevada. They seek to “eliminate the hazard to public health and safety” posed by the social media companies and recover civil penalties and “other relief” stemming from the companies’ “false, deceptive, and unfair marketing and other unlawful conduct.”
The lawsuits allege that though the companies created the impression that their platforms are safe for users, that representation is “false and misleading” and, therefore are in violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The lawsuits also accuse the companies of negligence claims, product liability and “unjust enrichment.”
The lawsuits do not cite federal laws, and the state is not bringing the claims on behalf of any individuals.
“The Attorney General is authorized to bring an action — independently in the name of the State as well as in a parens patriae (government) capacity on behalf of the persons residing in Nevada—to remedy violations of Nevada law,” attorneys wrote.
A press release from the attorney general’s office said that the platforms deliberately encouraged “problematic internet usage and caused young people harm to mental health, body image, physical health, privacy and physical safety.”
“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,” Ford, a Democrat, said in a statement about the litigation.
The attorneys note in the lawsuits that features such as endless scrolling, disappearing content, shares, likes and push notifications are designed to manipulate emotions and exploit developing minds for financial gains.
Legal filings note that each platform has a significant portion of users under 13, the legal minimum age to use the apps. It cites whistleblower testimony asserting that the companies were aware of the risks the platforms presented to teens.
In October, 42 state attorney generals from both political parties filed a combination of federal and state lawsuits against Meta, alleging that Instagram and Facebook had addictive features that were harmful to children and teenagers. Ford did not sign onto the lawsuit at the time.
Ford’s office did not immediately respond to questions emailed Tuesday about why he brought the lawsuit now, whether the governor was aware of the lawsuit and why Ford did not sign onto the multistate lawsuit against Meta last year.