A school district is suing social media apps for exploiting ‘youth’s vulnerable brains’

A school district is suing social media apps for exploiting ‘youth’s vulnerable brains’

A school district is suing social media apps for exploiting ‘youth’s vulnerable brains’

  • A Seattle school district is suing the negative impact of social media on youth.
  • The district says apps like TikTok and Instagram have “exploited the vulnerable brains of youth.”
  • The move comes a year after a whistleblower accused Facebook of ignoring its harm to teenagers.

A school district in Seattle filed a lawsuit against social media companies in a bid to combat student mental health issues, the Associated Press reported.

Seattle Public Schools is following the companies that have spawned several popular apps — including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat — and say students are experiencing mental health crises because of their use, the AP says.

“The defendants successfully preyed on the vulnerable brains of youth and engaged tens of millions of students across the country in positive feedback loops of overuse and abuse of the defendants’ social media platforms,” ​​the complaint reads, according to the AP. The content of the apps is “too often harmful and exploitative,” it said.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court on Friday, comes more than a year after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen accused the company of knowingly harming teenagers but chose to prioritize its profits instead. Haugen blames Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg for refusing to come up with solutions — such as changing the algorithm — to address the divide and the harm being done to its users.

SPS says in the lawsuit that students in the district reported an average 30% increase in feeling “so sad or hopeless nearly every day for two or more weeks straight” between 2009 and 2019. Social media use can be linked to depression, low self-esteem and feelings of loneliness in teens and has led to the phenomenon of cyberbullying, Insiders previously reported.

The complaint aims to circumvent Section 230, a controversial internet law that prevents tech companies from being held liable for words that users may place on their platforms. The law offers good Samaritan protections to service providers so long as they make a “good faith” effort to moderate content and make consistent efforts to remove federally unprotected content, such as violations of copyright laws or SESTA and FOSTA regulations.

“The plaintiff does not allege that the defendants are liable for what third parties have said on the defendants’ platforms, but rather for the defendants’ own conduct,” the lawsuit reads, according to the AP report. “The defendants expressly recommend and promote harmful content for young people, such as B. Pro-anorexia and eating disorder content.”

By focusing on the companies’ behavior rather than the content their users create, the lawsuit, which the AP calls “novel”, appears to circumvent the legal protections of Section 230.

It’s unclear if another US school district has taken similar action, but hundreds of families have taken legal action against social media companies over the mental health of young users, CBS News reported.

“While King County Council has recently allocated additional resources for school-based services, taxpayers should not shoulder the burden for the mental health crisis that social media companies have created, as explained in the complaint,” the school district said in one press release. “This lawsuit seeks to hold these companies accountable for their actions and to put youth mental health trends back on track.”

Seattle Public Schools, Meta, Snapchat, TikTok and Google did not immediately respond to insiders’ requests for comment. Keller Rohrback declined further comment.

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