N.H. says Facebook’s ‘rascality’ brought in $543 million from N.H. residents this year

FILE - Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University, on Oct. 17, 2019, in Washington. Zuckerberg, the Meta Platforms CEO and mixed martial arts enthusiast posted on social media Friday, Nov. 3, 3023, that he tore one of his anterior cruciate ligaments, or ACLs, while training for a fight early next year. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

FILE - Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University, on Oct. 17, 2019, in Washington. Zuckerberg, the Meta Platforms CEO and mixed martial arts enthusiast posted on social media Friday, Nov. 3, 3023, that he tore one of his anterior cruciate ligaments, or ACLs, while training for a fight early next year. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) Nick Wass

By DAVID BROOKS

Monitor staff

Published: 12-01-2023 3:23 PM

Two-thirds of New Hampshire residents are “active monthly users” of Facebook, helping explain how the company made so much revenue in the state that so far in 2023 it could pay for the city of Concord’s entire annual budget eight times over.

That’s one of the details included in the state’s complaint against Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram. Attorney General John Formella filed the suit in October in Merrimack County Superior Court, joining attorneys general from 41 other states that are suing Meta for using algorithms to “exploit the developmental vulnerabilities of children and trap them into never-ending use.”

The complaint contains five counts, including allegations that “Meta intentionally deployed addictive design features” and “negligently distributed its platforms to children of the state that baited them into excessive and compulsive use while failing to inform the users and their parents of the harms that could result.” It asks for changes in how the company operates and seeks monetary penalties.

On Friday, Formella released the entire 66-page complaint, with far more details of the state’s concerns.

“In 2023 alone, Meta has derived $542,835,568 from ad revenue from users that Meta tracks as having ties to New Hampshire,” it says.

That money comes from a huge audience. The complaint said that in 2023, Facebook has 950,475 active monthly users in New Hampshire, a full 68% of the total population, 34,063 of whom were under the age of 18.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

For three decades, a local Aubuchon Hardware store manager saw the company as an important part of his life 
Generally speaking, Don Bolduc, now a Pittsfield police officer, has tested himself for years  
Concord to hold listening session on I-93 bridge park 
Concord receives $2.5 million federal grant for new airport terminal
‘Poor decisions’ – Cog train helps rescue Mt. Washington hiker in brutal conditions
Texas Roadhouse opens on Loudon Road replacing Newick’s Lobster House

Instagram, which is more popular with teens than Facebook, had 733,019 active monthly users in New Hampshire, just over half the total population, with 89,339 of them under age eighteen.

Further, many of those youngsters used the site frequently: “In April 2023, Meta’s internal data showed that 55,885 New Hampshire teens were active daily users of Instagram.”

Frequent use is a particular concern, it said: “In 2018, Meta internally recognized that the more times a user spends on Instagram, the more likely they are to be exposed to admissions of suicide and self-harm. In 2021, Meta employees internally acknowledged how Instagram’s ranking algorithm takes children ‘into negative spirals & feedback loops that are hard to exit from.’ ”

The complaint points to correlation between the dominance of social media and increasing mental issues among youngsters: “At the same time as Meta’s global rise, the mental health of New Hampshire children deteriorated sharply. In 2021, almost half (44.2%) of New Hampshire’s high school students self-reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless – a 75% increase from 2011.”

“Whatever benefits Meta’s social media platforms may provide, those benefits could be achieved without these addictive design features. The harms that excessive and compulsive use of Meta’s social media platforms cause New Hampshire children, which Meta promotes through these design features, far outweigh the benefits.”

As a specific example, it points “visual selfie camera filters that simulate facial plastic surgery” available through Instagram even thought the filters are “actively encouraging young girls into body dysmorphia.”

The complaint describes pushback against the filters and the decision by Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, not to drop the feature.

“Meta’s conduct, as described in this complaint, meets and exceeds a level of rascality that would raise an eyebrow of someone inured to the rough and tumble of the world of commerce.”

The suits were filed by state officials from both political parties. Thirty-three states filed a federal suit against Meta in the Northern District of California, while 9 including New Hampshire filed in their own state courts.