By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Ohio’s attorney general on Monday filed a lawsuit against Meta, formerly known as Facebook, accusing it of violating federal securities law by misleading investors in claiming that its products don’t harm children’s health and wellbeing.
Attorney General Dave Yost filed the lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of the state’s pension fund—the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS)—and Facebook investors.
The suit accuses Facebook of having violated federal securities laws by having “knowingly exploited” children for profits, while “purposely misleading the public” that its products don’t harm children, and that the company had taken steps to stop the spread of misinformation and harmful content.
“Facebook said it was looking out for our children and weeding out online trolls, but in reality was creating misery and divisiveness for profit,” Yost said in a statement. “We are not people to Mark Zuckerberg, we are the product and we are being used against each other out of greed.”
A Meta spokesperson told news outlets, “This suit is without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.”
Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen in October shared a series of internal documents from the company that showed it was aware its platforms “facilitate dissension, illegal activity, and violent extremism, and cause significant harm to users, especially children,” but still refused to correct the issues, Yost said in the complaint.
The complaint also cited a series of company documents published by The Wall Street Journal in September. Among them were documents that showed Facebook did not tell the public about its internal studies that repeatedly found that Instagram users, mainly teenage girls, suffer from negative effects, including worsened body image issues, anxiety, and depression.
Zuckerberg said on Oct. 25 the leaked documents provided to the Journal and other news outlets paint a false picture of the findings of the studies, and that its products also bring benefits to its users.
The lawsuit alleges that Zuckerberg and other company officials purposefully lied about the safety, security, and privacy of its platforms.
Facebook had admitted in those internal documents that, “We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” Yost’s office noted in a release.
According to the complaint, the revelations resulted a devaluation in Facebook’s stock of $54.08 per share, causing Facebook investors to lose more than $100 billion within about a month.
Yost’s lawsuit is seeking to recover the loss in shareholder value and is demanding that Facebook change its practices to make sure it will no longer mislead the public about its internal practices.
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