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Meta Sued for Children’s Privacy Law Violations

on Thursday, 26 October 2023 in Technology & Intellectual Property Update: Arianna C. Goldstein, Editor

On October 24, 2023, the attorneys general of thirty-three states, including Nebraska, filed suit against Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, alleging that the social media giant engages in unlawful conduct with respect to children on its platforms. In particular, the suit alleges that Meta knowingly fosters addictive and psychologically harmful features in its products to maximize time users spend with its platform, where more time on the platform equates to more ad revenue for Meta.  The complaint goes on to allege that not only does Meta promote these practices but that it publishes misleading information on the nature and harm of its platforms.  Together these practices are alleged to violate respective state laws pertaining to unfair and deceptive trade practices.

The complaint further alleges that Meta does not meet its compliance obligations under federal law pertaining to children’s privacy.  The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) applies to operators of websites that are directed towards children under 13.  An element of COPPA compliance requires that operators subject to the law obtain “verifiable parental consent” (with limited exceptions) before collecting personal information from children.  Verifiable parental consent requires reasonable calculation that the parent, not the child, is providing the consent, for example, verifying driver’s license information or having the parent place a call to a toll-free number staffed by personnel.  The complaint states that Meta does not, nor does it even try to obtain, verifiable parental consent on Instagram and Facebook.  This suit is another avenue of critique and enforcement against Meta, and we will continue to track updates in the suit.

A copy of the complaint may be read here.

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