Federal judge rules NMDOJ-Meta case must be heard in state court

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge ruled to send the New Mexico Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Meta Platforms back to state court.

The NMDOJ argued the social media giant violated UPA, a state law against unfair or deceptive business practices. They argued a judge must hold Meta accountable in the state.

“We’re not going to hold them to a lower standard or a higher standard than we do a mom-and-pop business here in the state of New Mexico. But if they’re going to engage in commerce here, they have to play by the rules. They have to follow our law. And if they break New Mexico law, they need to be held accountable in New Mexico court,” New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez said.

Meta fired back, arguing the claims relate to COPPA, a federal law protecting children online, and that a federal court should take up the case.

The NMDOJ argued a COPPA violation is also a violation of New Mexico state law. District Judge Margaret Strickland agreed.

Judge Strickland stated the state’s claims “do not necessarily raise a federal law issue” and “do not pose a substantial question of federal law.”

“Although the Amended Complaint alleges violations of New Mexico’s UPA that may also be violations of COPPA, a court would not need to find that Meta violated COPPA to find that Meta violated New Mexico’s UPA. By way of background, federal law deems violations of COPPA to be unfair and deceptive acts or practices.”

The First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe will now take up the case.

The NMDOJ filed the lawsuit in December. The lawsuit alleges executives did not protect children from sexual abuse, solicitation and trafficking on its platforms.

AG Torrez alleged Meta’s practices contributed to an increase in trafficking in the state. 

Following the ruling, a spokesperson for the NMDOJ issued this statement:

“I am pleased the United States District Court granted our motion to move our lawsuit against Meta Platforms and Mr. Zuckerberg back to the First Judicial District Court for the County of Santa Fe. The New Mexico Department of Justice filed our litigation on behalf of New Mexicans and for violations of New Mexico law. The case belongs in state court. I look forward to making our case against Meta and Mr. Zuckerberg for facilitating child sexual abuse and human trafficking on their platforms in a New Mexico court of law.”