Meta (formerly Facebook) has received over 1.1 million reports of users under 13 on Instagram since early 2019.
The company allegedly "disabled only a fraction" of these accounts and continued collecting children's personal information without parental permission, violating federal children's privacy laws.
The attorneys general of 33 states have filed a legal complaint against Meta, seeking civil penalties that could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
The complaint alleges that Meta's knowledge of millions of underage Instagram users is well-documented internally but protected from public disclosure.
The unsealed complaint reveals details from internal emails, chats, and presentations, suggesting that Meta actively pursued underage users while failing to prioritize effective age-checking systems.
Meta executives are accused of making false statements in congressional testimony about the company's age-checking processes and removal of underage accounts.
The lawsuit focuses on violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), requiring verifiable parental consent for collecting personal details from users under 13, with potential fines exceeding $50,000 per violation.
Meta defends its actions, stating it has worked to make online experiences safe for teenagers, and the complaint mischaracterizes its efforts.
Meta suggests that age verification is a complex challenge for online services and advocates for federal legislation requiring parental approval for teen app downloads.