A US judge has ruled that Google, Meta and Byte Dance can be held accountable for child social media addiction lawsuits. The social media companies had previously asserted that they could not be blamed.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers’ decision now means that Google, Snap, Bytedance and Meta must now face up to the legal consequences of hundreds of legal cases that blame them for children’s addiction to their platforms.
The lawsuits claim that these tech giants lured and addicted millions of children to their platforms. This caused negative physical, mental, and emotional health effects such as anxiety, depression, and, in some tragic cases, suicide.
Last month, Meta faced legal action from 42 states. These accused the company of knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that harm young people’s mental health by intentionally fostering addiction.
Judge Rogers emphasized that the First Amendment and Section 230, which shields online platforms from being treated as publishers of third-party content, do not absolve Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat from liability in this case.
The judge highlighted the absence of parental controls as a major part of the decision, calling it a “defect”. More defects include not having “robust” age verification systems and a difficult account deletion process.
Google and Byte Dance apparently denied these allegations when asked. Meta and Snap simply did not respond.
This is an interesting development in the social media experiment. Ultimately, these companies are harnessing psychological and addictive tricks to keep people using them. Younger users seem to be particularly vulnerable. There have been several very sad stories of young people harming themselves after excessive social media use.