The San Mateo County superintendent and school board also allege in the lawsuit filed Monday that the technology companies engaged in activities including negligence, extortion, public nuisance and violations of unfair competition law. A Seattle school district filed a similar lawsuit against the same three companies in January.
“Powerful corporations using unparalleled and 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 crunch, which is a feature – not a bug – of their social media products.”
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Social media platforms argued that they have tools to protect children.
“We have an external group of child development experts who help us advise us on how to create an age-appropriate experience and protect children on YouTube,” a Google spokesperson told Fox News.
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TikTok declined to comment on the litigation, although a spokesperson said the company “prioritises the safety and well-being of teens.”
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And a spokesperson for Snap said that while 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 the themselves and their friends”.
The lawsuit alleges that the social media giants’ algorithms are purposefully delivering content that is harmful to youth, leaving school staff to address student issues caused by the platforms.
“No one goes unpunished for the health and well-being of our youth,” 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 directly harm a child, it’s very difficult.”
The lawsuit seeks to have the actions of technology companies declared a public nuisance and that the court prevent them from continuing this behavior. It also requires defendants to contribute to a public education fund and pay compensatory and punitive damages.
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The lawsuit also mentions President Biden’s comments during his State of the Union address, calling out social media companies “for the experiment they are performing on our children for profit.”
As TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat grew in popularity between 2011 and 2021, mental health issues among young people, such as depression and suicidal thoughts, also increased, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit excludes Facebook and Instagram, whose parent company Meta is based in San Mateo County. Internal documents show Facebook employees knew Instagram had toxic effects on women and girls, according to a 2021 Wall Street Journal investigation.
To watch the full interview with Woodhouse, click here.
Magee did not return a request for comment.