The public school district in Seattle has filed a novel lawsuit against the tech giants behind popular social media platforms TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, seeking to hold them accountable for the mental health crisis among youth.
The complaint was filed against Big Tech companies Google owner Alphabet, Instagram and Facebook umbrella company Meta, Snapchat, and TikTok owner Byte Dance.
The 91-page lawsuit says the social media companies have created a public nuisance by targeting their products to children. The complaint claims the companies purposefully designed their products to hook young people to their platforms and were creating a mental health crisis.
Anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying were among the behavioral disorders that the lawsuit says social media companies have worsened.
Seattle Public Schools says the social media platforms make it more difficult to educate students and force schools to take steps such as hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional training to teachers.
Students with mental health issues perform worse, causing schools to take steps including training teachers to identify and address such symptoms, hiring trained personnel, and creating additional resources to warn students about the dangers of social media, the complaint said.
Federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 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’ behavior in this case.
While hundreds of families are pursuing lawsuits against the companies over harms they allege their children have suffered from social media, it’s not clear if any other school districts have filed a complaint like Seattle’s.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for monetary damages and other penalties.
Social media platforms have been under fire for years for the harm they cause to children’s mental health.