The tech behemoths behind TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat have been sued by Seattle public schools on the grounds that they are to blame for a “mental health epidemic among America’s Youth.”
The 91-page lawsuit, which was submitted to a US federal court, claims that internet giants take advantage of social media’s addictive qualities, which increases anxiety, sadness, and suicidal thoughts.
The complaint claims that the defendants’ rise is a result of their decisions to build and run their platforms in a way that takes advantage of the psychology and neurophysiology of their users to encourage them to spend more and more time on them.
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Tens of millions of students nationwide were drawn into positive feedback loops of excessive usage and misuse of the social media platforms of the defendants by “[they] skillfully exploited the susceptible brains of youngsters.”
According to the complaint, harmful content that is pushed to users includes extreme diet plants, promotion of self-harm, and more. Students who report feeling “so depressed or hopeless… for two weeks or more in a run that [they] ceased completing some normal activities” have increased by 30% between 2009 and 2019 as a result.
Their academic performance suffers as a result, and Seattle Public Schools is ultimately unable to achieve its instructional goal because they are “less likely to attend school, more likely to take drugs, and more likely to act out.”
The US Communications Decency Act’s Section 230 declares that online platforms are not liable for third-party content placed on their sites. The action asserts that the clause does not shield social media corporations from criticism for suggesting, disseminating, and promoting content “in a way that causes injury.”
A Google spokeswoman told Axios, “We have extensively invested in building safe experiences for children across our platforms and have introduced strong protections and specific features to prioritize their wellness.”
For instance, “we give parents the opportunity to set reminders, limit screen time, and block specific sorts of content on supervised devices through Family Link.”
In a statement, Meta’s global head of safety Antigone Davis said, “We’ve developed more than 30 tools to support teens and families, including supervision tools that let parents limit the amount of time their teens spend on Instagram and age verification technology that helps teens have age-appropriate experiences.”
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On these crucial problems, “we’ll continue to engage closely with experts, decision-makers, and parents.” TikTok has not yet responded, but Engadget has contacted the business.
Social media businesses have recently been under fire from critics and professionals for abusing teenagers and young children. Frances Haugen, a meta whistleblower, stated in congressional testimony that “Facebook’s products damage children.”
Social media information can lead kids into “a deadly spiral,” according to eating disorders specialist Bryn Austin, who wrote about it in a 2021 Harvard essay. Additionally, lawmakers have taken notice of the problem and last year presented the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).
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