Seattle Public Schools sues TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and more, seeking damages over youth mental health crisis – GeekWire

“Generation One,” Public Domain image by Fouquier, via Flickr.

A new lawsuit filed by Seattle Public Schools against TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Snap, Instagram and their parent companies alleges that the social media giants have “successfully exploited the vulnerable minds of young people” for their own profit, using psychological tactics that have led to a mental health crisis in schools.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in US District Court in Seattle, seeks “the maximum legal and civil penalties permitted by law,” holding that the companies violated Washington state’s public nuisance statute.

Hundreds of families are pursuing similar cases against the companies, Next revelation About the tactics Facebook, Instagram, and others use to boost engagement among kids and teens.

However, Seattle Public Schools appears to be the first school district in the country to sue the corporations.

The district claims to have suffered widespread financial and operational damage from social media use and addiction among students. The suit cites factors as including the resources required to provide counseling services to students in crisis, and to investigate and respond to threats against schools and students through social media.

“This mental health crisis is no accident,” the suit says. “It is the result of Defendants’ deliberate choices and positive actions to design and market their social media platforms to attract young people.”

Over 90 pages long, the lawsuit provides extensive citations to support its claims, including surveys showing a 30% increase from 2009 to 2019 in the number of Seattle Public Schools students who said they felt “extreme sadness or hopelessness nearly every day for two weeks or more.” respectively [they] Stop doing some of your usual activities.”

Overnight, GeekWire contacted the district for further comment on the lawsuit, and each of the companies for their responses. We’ll update this story as we hear back.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said in response to lawsuits brought by parents that it has implemented a series of tools and safety measures for teens and families using its services.

While the Seattle lawsuit primarily focuses on the mental health impact of social media, it comes as school districts and other public institutions move to ban TikTok from their devices due to privacy and security concerns.

Seattle Public Schools, with more than 49,000 students and 106 schools, is the largest K-12 school system in Washington state.

This is the latest example of the region challenging corporate giants of America.

  • In 2019 SPS was among the thousands of organizations and institutions that… Lawsuits filed against Juul Labs on its marketing of e-cigarettes to youth. The company announced global settlement of those cases last month.
  • the neighborhood too File an amicus curiae note in Gonzalez v. Googlein which the family of an American citizen killed in an ISIS attack seeks to hold YouTube accountable for allowing the group to spread its message.

It is currently being considered by the US Supreme CourtGonzalez’s case will test whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should protect social platforms from legal liability for content posted by others.

In the lawsuit filed Friday, the district expects and seeks to pre-empt Section 230 defenses by the social media companies, saying the law does not apply to their actions in promoting and recommending harmful content.

Seattle-based law firm Keller Rohrbackwhich represented the district in the Google lawsuit and filed the memo on its behalf in the Google case, also represents SPS in the new lawsuit against the social media giants.

The lawsuit cites President Joe Biden’s statement in his 2022 State of the Union address that “we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they are conducting on our children for profit.”

The suit says the school district is “taking this action to do exactly that.”

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