The Seattle Public School District has filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court against technology companies, including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, for their alleged role in a youth mental health crisis.
According to the Associated Press, the 91-page complaint claims that these companies have created a public nuisance by targeting their products at children and worsening mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, and eating disorders. The lawsuit also accuses the companies of making it more difficult to educate students and forcing schools to take additional measures, such as hiring more mental health professionals and developing lesson plans about the effects of social media.
The complaint explains, “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. Worse, the content Defendants curate and direct to youth is too often harmful and exploitive ….”
Additionally, the lawsuit argues that the protection provided to online companies by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields them from liability for content posted by third party users, does not apply to the actions of the tech giants in this case. The school district is requesting that the court orders the companies to stop this behavior, pay damages, and fund prevention education and treatment for excessive and problematic use of social media.
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