The Seattle public school system has sued Big Tech, saying the companies are responsible for a worsening mental health crisis among students. It is also reported to have a direct impact on the schools’ ability to fulfill their educational mission.
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In the world of social media
On Friday, January 6, a case was filed in a US court against Google parent company Alphabet, Meta, Snap and TikTok’s owner ByteDance, according to Reuters.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies’ products were deliberately created to lure young people to their platforms, leading to a mental health crisis.
In response, Snap said it is working closely with several mental health organizations to offer in-app tools and support for users. It also stressed that the welfare of the community is the company’s main concern.
Meanwhile, Google said it had spent a lot on building safe experiences for young people across all of its platforms. Apparently, it has added strong safeguards and special features to protect their well-being.
Both companies emailed these responses to Reuters.
The request for a response from both Meta and TikTok went unanswered. Previous reports indicate the companies’ intent to provide users with a positive experience by filtering out inappropriate material, funding moderation efforts, and enforcing content policies.
According to the complaint, the activities of the tech companies have played a major role in causing a mental health crisis among young people.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants effectively exploited the sensitive minds of adolescents and lured millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of overuse and abuse of their social media platforms.
Schools have taken action in response to this case, including providing mental health training to instructors and hiring qualified staff. The complaint also indicates that the schools are increasing resources to educate students about the risks of using social media because of the poor performance of students with mental health problems.
In this case, the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages and additional fines.
Related story: Excessive use of social media by teens may cause changes in brain development: study
Backed by scientific research
Earlier this month, Tech Times reported a new study suggesting that teens’ excessive time on social media is associated with negative outcomes for cognitive maturation.
A possible long-term effect of increasing adolescent social media use is an increased sensitivity to the expectation of social rewards and punishments. This is according to research published in JAMA Pediatrics on January 3.
Co-author and UNC-Chapel Hill professor Eva Telzer said the findings show that youth exposed to social media at a young age are more susceptible to the opinions of their peers.
Previous Facebook issue
After hearing testimony from whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021, US senators accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of prioritizing money over children’s mental health.
Facebook has often said it disputes Haugen’s claim that the company has failed to protect female teens on Instagram.
Zuckerberg responded to Facebook saying that the claim that they purposefully promote things that upset people for the company is highly ridiculous.
“We make money from advertising, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don’t know of any tech company out there that’s out to build products that make people angry or depressed.”
Also see: Australia’s new disinformation code excludes some messaging apps, including WhatsApp
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