Social media companies continue to land themselves in hot waters in recent times with the latest coming from Seattle’s public school district which filed a lawsuit against big tech companies alleging that they were responsible for worsening the mental health state among students which have directly affected the school’s ability to carry out their educational missions.
Companies hit by the lawsuit include Alphabet, Snap, Meta, and of course, ByteDance (owner of TikTok). The lawsuit alleges that these companies purposefully designed their products to hook young people while causing serious mental health issues.
Google on the other hand came out saying it has invested in creating safe experiences for children across its platforms while also introducing strong protections and dedicated features in order to prioritize well-being.
Snap on the other hand said it works closely with a number of reputable mental health organizations in order to create in-app tools and resources that can help users’ well-being.
Meta and TikTok on the other hand did not immediately respond to requests for comment in the past even though all the aforementioned companies kept promising to build a better experience that is safe for children.
The lawsuit says the companies’ actions have been a substantial factor in causing a youth mental health crisis.
“Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,” the lawsuit said.
The complaint also added that students with mental health issues have horrible performances in their academics which often leads schools to take further steps including training teachers to identify and address these symptoms, hiring trained personnel, and creating additional resources in an attempt to warn students about the adverse danger of social media apps.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for monetary damages and other penalties.
In 2021, U.S. lawmakers accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of pushing for higher profits at the expense of children’s mental health following testimony by whistleblower Frances Haugen. Facebook has consistently said it disagrees with Haugen’s characterization that the company failed to protect teen girls on Instagram.
“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” he posted on his Facebook page in response.
“We make money from ads, and advertisers consistently tell us they don’t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don’t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed.”