Silicon Valley school board sues tech giants for ‘monetizing misery’, fueling teen mental health crisis

The San Mateo County superintendent and school board are suing Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube alleging they purposely designed the social media platforms to be addictive and have “carefully cultivated” a mental health crisis among students.

(Video Credit: NBC Bay Area)

The suit was filed Monday in US District Court in San Francisco by the San Mateo County Board of Education and Superintendent Nancy Magee.

The 107-page lawsuit also accuses the tech companies of being involved in activities such as negligence, racketeering, public nuisance, and violation of unfair competition law. This is not the only suit against these companies. A Seattle school district also filed one against the same three social media platforms in January.

“Powerful corporations who wield unmatched, highly concentrated technology in pursuit of profit are knowingly creating this unprecedented mental health crisis,” the lawsuit contends. “YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok and their related companies have carefully cultivated the crisis, which is a feature — not a bug — of their social media products.”

“For the youth targeted by social media companies and for the adults charged with their care, the results have been disastrous,” Karin Swope, an attorney for Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy LLP, said in a statement. “Excessive use of the YouTube, TikTok, and Snap companies’ platforms by children has become ubiquitous. And now, there are more children struggling with mental health issues than ever before. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for youths.”

The social media giants clapped back against the suit, contending that they have tools in place to protect children.

“We have an external group of child development experts that help advise us on how to build age-appropriate experience and protect kids on YouTube,” a Google spokesperson told Fox News in an interview.

TikTok refused to comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson told Fox News that the company “prioritizes the safety and well-being of teens.”

A spokesperson for Snapchat claimed that although 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 both themselves and their friends.”

The suit is alleging that the tech companies’ algorithms are delivering harmful content to children on purpose, leaving school staff to address the students’ issues caused by the addictive platforms.

“No one gets off the hook for the health and well-being of our young people,” Magee declared in an interview. “And when we try to work with social media companies to remove content that could be directly harming a child, it’s very difficult.”

“There is hard science behind the claim that social media is fueling a mental health epidemic in school-age children,” she said in a news release.

“Every day, schools are dealing with the fallout, which includes distracted students, increased absences, more children diagnosed with ADHD, cyber-bullying that carries into the classroom, and even physical damage to our San Mateo Schools, an example is the vandalism caused by the TikTok so-called ‘Devious Lick Challenge’ at the start of the school year,” Magee asserted.

The suit wants the court to prohibit the platforms from continuing the alleged abuse. The lawsuit is demanding that the defendants contribute to a public education fund and pay compensatory and punitive damages as well.

It also refers to President Biden’s comments during his State of the Union address calling out social media companies “for the experiment they are running on our children for profit.”

Mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts have skyrocketed among children in the wake of Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube growing in popularity since 2011 according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that was cited in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notably excludes Facebook and Instagram, whose parent company Meta is based in San Mateo County. Internal documents show that Facebook employees were cognizant that Instagram had toxic effects on young women and girls, according to a 2021 Wall Street Journal investigation.

(Video Credit: WHAS11)

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