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Officials fighting social media, state sues Meta


LITTLE ROCK – A ruling in Polk County Circuit Court says that parts of a lawsuit against the social media company Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, will be allowed to proceed. The lawsuit was brought forth by Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin last year. The suit points to violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), claiming that the company has misled the public about the platform’s safety and addictiveness.
The ruling notes that because there is a “catch-all” provision” in ADTPA that "has been broadly construed to encompass acts not specifically named in the act or even envisioned by the General Assembly," the claims set out in the lawsuit can be pursued, not dismissed as META has sought.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who joined Griffin in announcing the suit last March, has claimed that Meta played a role in the teen mental health crisis and this lawsuit would be the first of its kind in the country with a state taking on the multi-billion-dollar company.
Griffin issued a statement in response to the court's decision on June 13, “This is a victory for the citizens of Arkansas, especially our children, whom Meta has misled about the addictive and harmful consequences of using Meta’s platforms."
"The court’s order makes clear that the State of Arkansas has the right to sue Meta in state court under our state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Silicon Valley has now been served a message that their profits cannot be built on the backs of Arkansas’s youth," continued Griffin.
Arkansas officials are not the only policy influencers examining the potential consequences of excessive social media use. In a recent opinion piece in the The New York Times, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said that social media is a contributing factor in a mental health crisis among young people.

Murthy wants Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms, similar to those on cigarette packaging.
"It is time to require a surgeon general's warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents. A surgeon general's warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe," Murthy said. "Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior."
Up to 95% of youth ages 13 to 17 say they use a social media platform, and more than a third claim to use social media "almost constantly," according to 2022 data from the Pew Research Center.
The last federal law aimed at protecting children online was enacted in 1998, but legislators have shown an increasing interest in regulating social media through policymaking.
Leaders of social media companies went before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January and presented information about existing safety and privacy protections in place.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal supported Murthy's message Monday. "We are pleased that the Surgeon General — America's top doctor — continues to bring attention to the harmful impact that social media has on our children," the senators said in a prepared statement.