Filing suit in response to whistleblower allegations which have rocked Facebook, the attorney general of Ohio, Dave Yost, accused the social media company of “creating misery and divisiveness for profit”.
Yost sued Meta – as Facebook was recently renamed – after revelations from the whistleblower Frances Haugen shocked consumers and sent stock prices tumbling.
Filed in the northern district of California, the Ohio suit claims that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and associates violated federal securities law by knowingly deceiving the public.
“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.
“We are not people to Mark Zuckerberg, we are the product and we are being used against each other out of greed.”
The litigation comes amid a larger backlash against Zuckerberg and his online empire, after Haugen shared what the suit calls “a trove of internal company documents” showing Facebook’s complicity in the harm its platforms cause.
Through Wall Street Journal articles and other reportage, Haugen’s leaks uncovered how little Facebook’s leadership was doing to protect users or even abide by its own rules.
The revelations have further eroded trust in the social media behemoth and caused financial repercussions. Between 13 September and 21 October – as the Wall Street Journal published its exposés – “Facebook’s stock price declined by $54.08 a share, or over 14%”, the Ohio lawsuit states.
Yost filed the complaint on behalf of Facebook investors and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, a public pension fund affected by falls in Facebook shares.
The suit relies on Haugen’s evidence to assert that Facebook knew its platforms “facilitate dissension, illegal activity and violent extremism, and cause significant harm to users, especially children” but refused to meaningfully course-correct.
“This matter arises from an egregious breach of public trust by Facebook, which knowingly exploited its most vulnerable users – including children throughout the world – in order to drive corporate profits,” the complaint says.
A Facebook spokesperson said the lawsuit was “without merit” and said the company would fight it.
The Associated Press contributed reporting