Ohio sues Facebook alleging it misled the public about effect on children

Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has announced a lawsuit against Facebook parent Meta over accusations the company misled the public about the negative effects its products have on the health and wellbeing of children.

The lawsuit alleges that between April 29 and Oct. 21, Facebook and some senior executives violated federal security law by misleading shareholders about how its products can harm children.


It also alleges that the company's platforms facilitate division, and favor high-profile users, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other company officials knew they were making false statements about the safety, security and privacy of its platforms.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and other investors said the truth emerging over roughly a month caused a devaluation in Facebook's stock of $54.08 per share, costing OPERS and other Facebook investors $100 billion.

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Plaintiffs cited Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who testified in the Senate last month that the social media company knew its products harmed children and facilitated division, but failed to make necessary changes because it was more concerned about profit.

They also cited the Wall Street Journal's reporting in September, which showed that Facebook's cross-check shields millions of celebrities, politicians, and other high profile users from its normal content moderation rules. The company admitted in internal documents obtained by WSJ for the article: "We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly."

Last month, Facebook's oversight board similarly found that the platform lacks transparency about a program shielding high-profile users from content moderation rules.

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"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 Monday. "We are not people to Mark Zuckerberg, we are the product and we are being used against each other out of greed."

The complaint refers to the parent company as Facebook for ease of reference, but noted that Facebook changed the corporate name of its parent company to Meta late last month.


Along with seeking to recover $100 billion, the lawsuit also calls for Facebook to make significant reforms to ensure it does not mislead the public about its internal practices.

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Meta spokesperson Joe Osborne said in a statement emailed to The Verge the lawsuit is "without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

CNBC similarly confirmed a Meta spokesperson called the suit "without merit."

Yost plans to ask the court to appoint OPERS as the lead plaintiff in his Facebook securities fraud action by a December 27 deadline, and has welcomed other Facebook investors to join him in holding the company and its executives accountable.

As of December 31, 2020, OPERS managed assets of approximately $125 billion on behalf of more than 1.1 million active members, retirees, and beneficiaries, according to the lawsuit.

The system "purchased shares of Facebook Class A common stock at artificially inflated prices" period between April 29 and Oct. 21, and "suffered damages as a result of the violations of the federal securities laws alleged," according to the lawsuit.

In May, Yost joined 43 other attorneys general in sending a letter to Zuckerberg urging him to halt plans to introduce Instagram app for kids.


In late September, Facebook halted Instagram Kids to study the issue of child safety.

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