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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A coalition of state attorneys general is launching an investigation into how Instagram, owned by Meta, draws in young users and affects their well-being, some of the states involved announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Meta has made it clear it wants to entice young users in order to compete with companies that have been more popular with kids and teenagers, like TikTok and Snapchat.

What's happening: The AGs are investigating the photo and video sharing app in response to revelations from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on internal research showing Meta knew Instagram could have bad effects on users.

  • At least eight states, including New York, Nebraska and Massachusetts, are involved. The AG investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Yes, but: Tech companies like Meta have armies of lawyers and endless funds to fight off state action, if the AG coalition's investigation turns into a lawsuit.

  • Earlier this year, a federal district judge dismissed a state AG antitrust lawsuit against Meta.

Flashback: In September, Meta abandoned plans for an Instagram app for kids after lawmaker outcry.

What they're saying: "These social media platforms are extremely dangerous and have been proven to cause both physical and mental harm in young people,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

  • “Our coalition will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to protect children and young adults from the harms Instagram and other social media platforms risk to so many.”
  • Nebraska AG Doug Peterson said: "When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws."

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2021 - Technology

New social media trend: Old-fashioned links

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

After years of hoarding engagement, new startups — along with some tech giants — are finally making it easier for users to add external links to their profiles and content.

Why it matters: Linking out to personal web pages or online storefronts has traditionally been difficult to do on some social media platforms, since most firms want to keep users engaged on their own platforms as much as possible.

Two lawyers who challenged 2020 election ordered to pay Dominion, Facebook

Photo: David Jennings/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

A federal judge in Colorado on Monday ordered two lawyers who brought an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results to pay more than $186,000 to cover the legal fees of the groups they sued, including Facebook (now Meta) and Dominion Voting Systems.

Driving the news: Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter said the lawsuit "has been used to manipulate gullible members of the public and foment public unrest." He added that the two lawyers, Gary Fielder and Ernest John Walker, "should have known better" and they "need to take responsibility for their misconduct."

Rep. Louie Gohmert running for Texas attorney general

Rep. Louie Gohmert at the U.S. Capitol in October. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Louie Gohmert announced Monday his bid to become Texas attorney general in 2022 and said he's already raised $1 million in his effort to unseat the incumbent, fellow Republican Ken Paxton.

The big picture: The Texas congressman and Trump loyalist joins a crowded field of candidates challenging Paxton, who is under investigation by the FBI and is facing securities fraud charges.