Mike Hilgers

Nebraska Attorney General

Attorney General Hilgers' November Column: Fighting for Nebraska’s Children

As Attorney General, one of my most solemn obligations is to protect Nebraska’s children from those who prey upon them. And as a dad with four school-aged children, I know firsthand the challenges of being a parent in today’s age. Unfortunately, reckless and predatory companies exist that target children and would do them harm. We won’t stand by and let that happen; our office is leading the fight to protect our communities and our children with two important lawsuits. 

In the first lawsuit, Nebraska sued Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, for recklessly targeting children, addicting them to its platforms, and misleading parents. Parents around the state are trying to make the best decisions they can for their kids. And when it comes to social media, those decisions can be difficult, especially as the harms these platforms cause children are often insidious and not always obvious. Parents are entitled to truthful and accurate information about the harms social media platforms can cause their children and reasonably expect companies to not mislead them or lie about the risks of using their products. 

It turns out that Meta’s internal data and documents show serious harms caused by using its products. For example, Meta has long known that use of its social media platforms, particularly for young girls, is causally correlated with increased mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and body dysmorphia issues.

Given the risk of harm, you would expect Meta to address its harmful effects or at least inform parents to help them in their effort to protect their kids. Did it do that? No. Instead of protecting kids, Meta targeted them, crafting their algorithms in a way to hook the “valuable and untapped” youth market. 

And did Meta come clean and tell parents of the risks, at least giving them the opportunity to make informed decisions for their children’s wellbeing? Again, the sad answer is “no.” Meta misled and deceived parents, arguing that Instagram was positive for kids while suppressing data Meta had that showed otherwise. Millions of American children and over a hundred thousand Nebraska kids have been exposed to and targeted by Meta, causing untold current and future mental harm. 

Meta should be ashamed. Thankfully, our office has stronger tools than public shaming, and we joined over 40 other states in filing a suit against Meta to enforce our consumer protection laws and protect Nebraska children

Sadly, Meta is not the only company in Nebraska targeting kids. Our office led a multi-month investigation into stores around the state selling THC-based products such as Delta-8. Our office tested over 100 products, and what we found is very troubling. Nearly 85% of those products had inaccurate labeling. These products contained mold, acids, heavy metals, and a whole host of unidentifiable and untested chemicals. 

And these stores targeted kids. We found copycat products of popular snacks and candies that were designed to imitate and pass off as brands that kids know and love, such as Nerds® candies and Frito-Lay® chips. These infringing and counterfeit products look nearly identical to the safe-to-eat snacks and candies but instead contain high levels of THC. 

These companies are reckless and endanger children in a way that should cause deep concern in our community. As little as 2.5mg of THC can send a child under the age of three to the hospital. Our testing found products that had hundreds of milligrams of THC. Delta-8 has been associated with deaths around the country, and our office has received reports around the state from children who have been hospitalized by eating these dangerous products.

This is outrageous, and our office is taking action. We filed an unprecedented series of lawsuits across the state to shut down this activity, and we issued a consumer alert informing Nebraskans—and parents in particular—of the dangers these products pose to them and their kids.

The vast majority of members of our community care for and want the best for our kids. Unfortunately, some companies do not share the same goal and would recklessly put children in harm’s way just to make an extra buck. In Nebraska, we are fighting back. The full weight of the Attorney General’s Office will be leveled against companies that put our kids in harm’s way.