Pupils in the USA on their cell phones (symbolic image): Tech giants »recommend and actively promote harmful content for young people«
Photo: monkeybusinessimages / iStockphoto / Getty Images
They are accused of worsening anxiety, depression, eating disorders and cyberbullying, making it difficult for students to educate themselves and forcing schools to take countermeasures: Public schools in the US city of Seattle filed lawsuits against the tech giants behind TikTok on Friday , Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat filed in US District Court.
The 91-page lawsuit alleges that the social media companies created a public nuisance by targeting their products to children, thereby reinforcing mental health and behavioral disorders.
Schools would now need to take action such as hiring additional mental health professionals, incorporating the impact of social media into lesson plans, or additional training for teachers.
Harmful and exploitative
Defendants "successfully exploited the vulnerable minds of young people," enticing millions of students across the country into excessive use.
“The content that the defendants curate and forward to young people” is often “harmful and exploitative”.
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Under federal law - Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - online businesses are largely protected from liability for what third-party users post on their platforms.
But the plaintiffs argue the tech giants "actively recommend and promote content harmful to youth, such as content promoting anorexia and eating disorders."
Google and Snapchat said on Sunday they had implemented protections on their platforms.
"We will continue to work to keep our platform safe and to provide Snapchatters struggling with mental health issues with resources to help them navigate the challenges young people face today," the company said in a written statement.
Tools to protect children
José Castañeda, a spokesman for Google, said that Google, which owns YouTube, has given parents the ability to set reminders, limit screen time and block certain types of content on their children's devices.
Meta and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests from the AP news agency.
The lawsuit states that from 2009 to 2019, the number of students at Seattle Public Schools who reported feeling "so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more straight" that they stopped some typical activities , had risen by an average of 30 percent.
The school district is asking the court to order the companies to pay damages and pay for prevention education and treatment of excessive and problematic social media use.