public schools in Seattle filed the lawsuit Friday in US District Court. The 91-page complaint says the social media companies caused a public nuisance by targeting their products at children.
It blames them for mental health deterioration and behavioral disorders, including anxiety, depression, disordered eating and cyberbullying; making it more difficult to train students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans on the effects of social media, and providing additional training to teachers.
“Defendants successfully exploited the fragile brains of young people, sending tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of overuse and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,” the suit reads. “Worse still, the content that defendants compile and send 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 — section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — helps protect online businesses from liability arising from what external users post on their platforms, the lawsuit argues that the provision does not protect the tech giants’ conduct in this case.
“Plaintiff does not allege that 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 for youth, such as pro-anorexia and eating disorder content.”
According to the lawsuit, between 2009 and 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 what to do. doing. typical activities.
The school district is asking the court to order the companies to stop creating a nuisance, award damages, and pay preventive education and treatment for excessive and problematic social media use.
While hundreds of families are filing lawsuits against the companies alleging harm their children have suffered from social media, it’s not clear if other school districts have filed a complaint like Seattle’s.
Internal investigations revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 showed the company knew Instagram was negatively impacting teens by harming their body image and making eating disorders and suicidal thoughts worse. She claimed the platform put profit before safety and hid its own research from investors and the public.