- 13 social media companies are named in a lawsuit filed by the Seattle public schools district.
- The suit accuses Meta, Google, TikTok, and Snap of creating a mental health crisis among America’s youth.
- It alleges the companies designed their platforms to exploit human psychology and be addictive.
13 social media companies are accused of “creating a mental health crisis among America’s youth” in a lawsuit filed Friday by the Seattle public schools district.
The suit, which Insider has reviewed, names Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and their associated companies as defendants, and slams their business models, claiming they harm youths.
Seattle’s public school system said it had a responsibility to file the suit because children suffering from mental health problems perform worse in school and are less likely to attend at all, affecting the schools’ educational mission.
The lawsuit alleges that the apps “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.”
It added that the content they “curate and direct to youth is too often harmful and exploitive,” pointing to examples encouraging self-harm, and an extreme “corpse bride” diet.
According to the American Psychological Association, the rate of 12 to 17-year-olds experiencing major depression increased by 52% from 2005 to 2017. During the first seven months of COVID-19 lockdowns, the APA later reported, mental health-related emergency department visits for the same age group increased by 31% compared to 2019.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, was fined $403 million in September 2022 by Irish regulators for failing to protect children’s privacy. It was fined a further $414 million on January 4, amid a row over whether it needs to ask users for consent to track them for advertisers.
The lawsuit also quotes President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last year, in which he said: “We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”
A Snap spokesperson said “nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our community” and it works closely with mental health organizations to give users “resources to help them deal with the challenges facing young people today.”
Google, Meta, and TikTok did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.