In an unusual lawsuit, the Seattle public school district is attempting to hold the digital firms behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat responsible for the children’s mental health issues.
The complaint was lodged in U.S. District Court on Friday by Seattle Public Schools. The social media giants are accused of causing a public disturbance by promoting to youngsters, according to the 91-page lawsuit.
It accuses them of increasing mental health and behavioural concerns like anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying; making it more challenging to teach children; and trying to pressure schools to implement activities like employing more mental health experts, creating learning activities about social media’s side affects, and giving educators more training.
“Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,” the complaint said. “Worse, the content Defendants curate and direct to youth is too often harmful and exploitive ….”
Requests for responses on Saturday were not quickly answered by Meta, Google, Snap, or TikTok.
The petition alleges that even though federal law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, helps defend technology companies from damages originating from content that third parties upload on their platforms, that law does not cover the tech giants’ actions in this situation.
“Plaintiff is not alleging Defendants are liable for what third-parties have said on Defendants’ platforms but, rather, for Defendants’ own conduct,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants affirmatively recommend and promote harmful content to youth, such as pro-anorexia and eating disorder content.”
According to the complaint, the amount of Seattle Public Schools students who admitted to experiencing “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row” that they quit doing so many common tasks rose by an average of 30% from 2009 to 2019.
The school board is seeking that the judge imposes a cease-and-desist order, award damages, and demand the firms pay for treatment and prevention programmes for individuals who use social media in an inappropriate or excessive way.
It’s uncertain whether other school districts have made a complaint identical to Seattle’s, despite the reality that dozens of families are suing the firms over alleged damages social networking has brought to their children.
Internal research publicly disclosed in 2021 by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen confirmed that the corporation was mindful of Instagram’s harmful effects on teenagers, including the way it harmed their body image and directly caused eating disorders and suicidal tendencies. According to her, the platform put profits ahead of health and safety purposes and obscured its own studies from the general public and investors.