Pointers at Glance
- A public school in Seattle has filed a lawsuit against TikTok, Instagram, and other social media companies.
- The lawsuit says to hold social media companies accountable for youth’s mental health.
Seattle Schools filed a lawsuit against social media companies such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, seeking to hold them accountable for the mental health crisis among youth.
The lawsuit filed in the US district court was a 91-page complaint and accused the social media companies of creating a public nuisance by targeting their products to children. The lawsuit also blames them for causing behavioral disorders and worsening mental health issues.
The school district also claims that these companies have made it difficult to educate students, forcing the schools to hire additional mental health professionals and develop new lesson plans about the social media effects.
While the federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, protects online companies from liability for third-party content on their platforms, the lawsuit argues that it does not apply in this case. Instead, it claims that the tech giants are liable for their own conduct, like recommending and promoting harmful content to children.
Meta and Tiktok did not respond to the requests, while Snap, which owns Snapchat, and Google, which owns YouTube, stated that they have worked to protect youth who use their platforms.
Snap has launched an in-app support system and enabled settings that allow parents to see whom their children contact.
Google has introduced features to prioritize children’s well-being, such as setting reminders, limiting screen time, and blocking certain types of content.
The school district is seeking the court to stop the companies from creating a public nuisance, award damages, and pay for prevention education and treatment for excessive and problematic use of social media. It is unclear if any other school districts have filed a similar complaint against the social media giants.
Internal studies unveiled by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 showed that Instagram knew that it negatively affected teenagers by harming their body image and making eating disorders and thoughts of suicide worse. She alleged that the platform prioritized profits over safety and hid its research from investors and the public.