Seattle Public Schools Sue Social Media Platforms Over Youth ‘Mental Health Crisis’ | Seattle

The Seattle Public Schools District has filed a lawsuit in the United States against several major social media companies, accusing them of harming the mental health of young people across the country.

The lawsuit filed Friday in a U.S. district court accused the social media companies behind TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube of creating a “mental health crisis among America’s youth.”

“The growth of Defendants is a product of the choices they’ve made to design and operate their platforms in ways that leverage their users’ psychology and neurophysiology to spend more and more time on their platforms. These techniques are particularly effective and harmful to youth audiences,” the 91-page lawsuit states.

“Defendants successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of young people, hooking tens of millions of students across the country in positive feedback loops of overuse and abuse of defendants’ social media platforms,” ​​he added, citing harmful content including extreme diet plans and encouragement of self-harm.

The lawsuit went on to attribute the companies’ alleged misconduct to the rising rates of anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation experienced among young people.

According to the lawsuit, from 2009 to 2019, there was an average 30 percent increase in the number of Seattle public school students who reported feeling “this sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more at a stretch.” that [they] stopped doing some usual activities.”

As students experience various mental health issues including anxiety and depression, their academic performance declines, the lawsuit said, making them less likely to attend school and more likely to engage in substance use and “act out.” in turn hindering “Seattle public schools’ ability to fulfill their educational mission”.

Under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, federal law helps provide immunity for online platforms from third-party users and what they choose to post as content.

However, the lawsuit argues that the provision does not protect social media companies and says they are responsible for recommending, distributing and promoting content and marketing their social media platforms “in a way that causes harm.”

In a statement to Axios, Google spokesperson José Castañeda said Google has “invested heavily in creating safe experiences for children on our platforms and have introduced strong protections and dedicated features to prioritize their well-being,” citing Family Link. as an example, a parental controls feature that allows parents to set screen time and limit content, among other abilities.

Similarly, Snapchat said it’s working “closely with many mental health organizations to provide in-app tools and resources for users, and that the well-being of its community is its top priority,” the company said. at Reuters.

In October 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rejected allegations by lawmakers that Facebook was making profits at the expense of young people’s mental health.

“The argument that we deliberately push content that angers people for profit is deeply illogical,” Zuckerberg said on Facebook, which is owned by Meta.

“We make money on ads, and advertisers are constantly telling us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or irritating content. And I don’t know of any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed,” she added.

The Guardian has reached out to Meta and TikTok for comment.

According to the lawsuit, the school district is seeking damages following “public nuisance” that asked the court to order the companies to stop creating.

The district is also seeking money to pay for prevention education and treatment for problematic and excessive social media use.

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