top of page

California AG Bonta unredacted federal lawsuit against Meta which he says is 'damning'

By ONME Newswire

OAKLAND, Calif. — California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced this week the public release of a largely unredacted copy of the federal complaint filed by a bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general against Meta Platforms, Inc. and affiliates (Meta) on October 24, 2023. Meta Platforms (META.O), owns WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook.

In May, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused Meta's (META.O) Facebook of misleading parents about protections for children and proposed tightening an existing agreement on privacy to include a ban on making money from minors' data. On Monday, Federal Judge Timothy Kelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a motion filed by META. O for the court to take over the dispute with the FTC--which means regulators at the FTC can ban Facebook from making money off data collected on users under age 18, including in its virtual reality business. It would also face expanded limitations on using facial recognition technology, according to Reuters. In fact, META. O gets 98 percent of its income from personal data; a study done in early 2023 by the Pew Research Center found that 62% of teens aged 13-17 reported using Instagram while 17% reported using the WhatsApp.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bonta co-led the coalition, alleging that META. O designed and deployed harmful features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children and teens to their mental and physical detriment. As originally filed, however, much of the federal complaint included information conditionally under seal. Based on the company's own documents, the removal of the redactions provides additional context for the misconduct that the attorneys general allege against META. O. “Meta knows that what it is doing is bad for kids — period. Thanks to our unredacted federal complaint, it is now there in black and white, and it is damning,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute this matter.”

Highlights from the newly revealed portions of the complaint include the following:

  • Mark Zuckerberg personally vetoed META. O’s proposed policy to ban image filters that simulated the effects of plastic surgery, despite internal pushback and an expert consensus that such filters harm users’ mental health, especially for women and girls. Complaint ¶¶ 333-68.

  • Despite public statements that META. O does not prioritize the amount of time users spend on its social media platforms, internal documents show that META. O set explicit goals of increasing “time spent” and meticulously tracked engagement metrics, including among teen users. Complaint ¶¶ 134-150.

  • META. O continuously misrepresented that its social media platforms were safe, while internal data revealed that users experienced harms on its platforms at far higher rates. Complaint ¶¶ 458-507.

  • META. O knows that its social media platforms are used by millions of children under 13, including, at one point, around 30% of all 10–12-year-olds, and unlawfully collects their personal information. META. O does this despite Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress in 2021 that META. O “kicks off” children under 13. Complaint ¶¶ 642-811.

A copy of the largely unredacted complaint can be found here.


bottom of page