Seattle schools sue tech giants over social media harm

Seattle schools sue tech giants over social media harm

SEATTLE (AP) – The Seattle Public School District has filed a new lawsuit against the tech giants behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, seeking to hold them accountable for the mental health crisis among young people.

Seattle Public Schools filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court. The 91-page complaint says social media companies have created a public nuisance by targeting their products at children.

He blames them for worsening mental health and behavioral disorders, including anxiety, depression, disordered eating and cyberbullying; making it more difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional training for teachers.

“Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, engaging tens of millions of students across the country in positive reactions to the excessive use and abuse of the defendants’ social media platforms,” ​​the complaint said. “Worse, the content that the defendants curate and direct to young people is too often harmful and exploitative…”

Meta, Google, Snap and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

While the federal law β€” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act β€” helps protect online companies from liability arising from what third-party users post on their platforms, the lawsuit argues that the provision does not protect the tech giants’ conduct in this case.

“The plaintiff does not allege that the defendants are responsible for what third parties have said on the defendants’ platforms, but, rather, for the conduct of the defendants themselves,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants affirmatively recommend and promote content harmful to youth, such as pro-anorexia and eating disorder content.”

The lawsuit says that from 2009 to 2019, there was an average 30% increase in the number of Seattle Public Schools students who reported feeling “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row” that they stopped doing some typical activities.

The school district is asking the court to order the companies to stop creating a public nuisance, pay damages and pay for preventive education and treatment for the excessive and problematic use of social media.

While hundreds of families are pursuing lawsuits against the companies over harm they claim their children have suffered from social media, it’s unclear if any other school districts have filed a complaint like Seattle’s.

Internal studies revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 showed that the company knew Instagram was negatively affecting teenagers by damaging their body image and exacerbating eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. It claimed the platform prioritized profits over security and hid its research from investors and the public.

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