New York City sues Meta, TikTok, and others over “manipulative and addictive features”

Feb 16, 2024

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

New York City sues Meta, TikTok, and others over “manipulative and addictive features”

Feb 16, 2024

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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nyc lawsuit big tech

Yet another lawsuit has landed on the major social media platforms. This time, New York City has joined the growing wave of government entities suing big tech companies for their alleged role in worsening the youth mental health crisis. The city filed suit against Meta (Facebook, Instagram), TikTok, Snap (Snapchat), and Google (YouTube), accusing them of “fueling the nationwide youth mental health crisis” through its addictive features.

Several city agencies filed the lawsuit, including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Education. It charges the companies with “public nuisance affecting schools, public hospitals, and communities citywide.”

“As a result, that the city has had to expend significant resources to address. In New York City, over 38 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless during the past year that they stopped engaging in their usual activities.”

“Social media can be used as a tool for information-sharing and building community. But, as a mental health clinician, I have also witnessed the profound negative impacts it continues to have on the mental health of many of our young people,” said Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health Executive Director Eva Wong.

“[Oftentimes], social media exposes our children to cyberbullying, body image issues, online predators, privacy concerns, and increasing risk of depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and even suicide. As a mother, I’m deeply concerned about the enduring negative effect social media has on shaping youth culture. And today, as a city, we are saying it is not sufficient to merely caution young people about the dangers of social media; we must also hold companies accountable for creating and profiting from an environmental toxin that harms our children and young people.”

“Our children are facing a mental health crisis fueled by social media companies’ disregard for their safety and wellbeing,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “We owe it to our kids to tackle the damaging effects of social media, and I applaud Mayor Adams for taking this important action today to hold these companies accountable.”

The big tech response

The platforms hit by the lawsuit claim that they are already taking steps to keep young users safe and supported on their platforms. “We want teens to have safe, age-appropriate experiences online, and we have over 30 tools and features to support them and their parents,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement quoted by The Verge.

A Snap spokesperson reportedly pointed to the differences between Snapchat and other social media platforms. They said that the app was “intentionally designed to be different from traditional social media, with a focus on helping Snapchatters communicate with their close friends.”

A TikTok spokesperson said that its app had the “industry-leading safeguards to support teens’ well-being, including age-restricted features, parental controls, an automatic 60-minute time limit for users under 18, and more.”

And Google spokesperson José Castañeda said that the lawsuit allegations were untrue. “In collaboration with youth, mental health and parenting experts, we’ve built services and policies to give young people age-appropriate experiences, and parents robust controls,” Castañeda said.

Still, the NYC lawsuit follows similar actions by other entities. You may remember that the Maryland and Seattle school districts filed lawsuits against these companies as well. 33 US states filed a lawsuit against Meta last fall, and it eventually raised to 42 states. What’s more, a US judge ruled in late 2023 that Google, Meta, and ByteDance can be held accountable for child social media addiction lawsuits. Montana even became the first state to ban TikTok.

Whether this lawsuit will succeed remains to be seen. However, it definitely shows that we still need to debate the role of social media in our lives and the responsibility of tech companies towards their users, especially young ones.

[via The Verge]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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