TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat are purposefully designed to be addictive platforms that have “carefully cultivated” a mental health crisis among U.S. students, a Silicon Valley school board alleged in a lawsuit.
The San Mateo County superintendent and school board also alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday that the tech companies were involved in activities such as negligence, racketeering, public nuisance and violation of unfair competition law. A Seattle school district filed a similar lawsuit against the same three companies in January.
“Powerful corporations who wield unmatched, highly concentrated technology in pursuit of profit are knowingly creating this unprecedented mental health crisis,” the lawsuit states. “YouTube, Snap, TikTok and their related companies have carefully cultivated the crisis, which is a feature—not a bug—of their social media products.”
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The social media platforms argued that they have tools in place to protect children.
“We have an external group of child development experts that help advise us on how to build age-appropriate experience and protect kids on YouTube,” a Google spokesperson told Fox News.
TikTok declined to comment on the litigation though a spokesperson said the company “prioritizes the safety and well-being of teens.”
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And a Snap spokesperson said that though the app is primarily used as a messaging platform, the company works “closely with leading mental health organizations to provide in-app tools for Snapchatters and resources to help support both themselves and their friends.”
The suit alleges that the social media giants’ algorithms are purposefully delivering harmful content to youth, leaving school staff to address the students’ issues caused by the platforms.
“No one gets off the hook for the health and well-being of our young people,” San Mateo Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said in a local interview. “And when we try to work with social media companies to remove content that could be directly harming a child, it’s very difficult.”
The lawsuit seeks to have the tech companies’ actions declared a public nuisance and for the court to stop them from continuing that behavior. It also demands that the defendants contribute to a public education fund and pay compensatory and punitive damages.
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The suit also mentions President Biden’s comments during his State of the Union address calling out social media companies “for the experiment they are running on our children for profit.”
As TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat grew in popularity between 2011 and 2021, mental health issues among youth such as depression and suicidal thoughts have also increased, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study cited in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit excludes Facebook and Instagram, whose parent company Meta is based in San Mateo County. Internal documents show that Facebook employees knew that Instagram had toxic effects on young women and girls, according to a 2021 Wall Street Journal investigation.
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To watch the full interview with Woodhouse, click here.
Magee did not return a request for comment.