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US federal judge says social media giants must face child safety lawsuits | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


A federal judge today rejected a motion from social media companies to dismiss a slew of lawsuits that accuse them of addicting millions of kids to their platforms and subsequently harming their mental health.

School districts all over the U.S. have launched what is reported to be hundreds of such lawsuits against Google LLC-owned YouTube, Meta Platforms Inc.-owned Facebook and Instagram, ByteDance Ltd.-owned TikTok, and Snap Inc.-owned Snapchat.

District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, ruled that the First Amendment and Section 230 do not protect the companies from all liabilities in the cases. These cases state that social media companies manipulate children to use the platforms while exposing them to harmful content. The lawsuits decry a lack of parental controls, weak age verification systems, and no easy process to have content removed.

Combined, say the plaintiffs, this has caused all manner of mental health harms, including anxiety and depression. They are seeking damages and have asked that the companies make changes to how they currently run their platforms.

This comes after a bipartisan group of 42 U.S. attorneys in October announced they were suing Meta, accusing the company of placing profit ahead of safety where mental health is concerned. The attorneys blamed Meta for an alleged major role in what is a current mental crisis among the U.S.’s young. It certainly didn’t help Meta’s cause when, soon after, a former engineer-turned-whistleblower stated that Meta puts profits before safety.

“Today’s decision is a significant victory for the families that have been harmed by the dangers of social media,” lead lawyers Lexi Hazam, Previn Warren and Chris Seeger said in a joint statement. “The Court’s ruling repudiates Big Tech’s overbroad and incorrect claim that Section 230 or the First Amendment should grant them blanket immunity for the harm they cause to their users.”

Google’s public policy manager José Castañeda has denied the allegations, saying that YouTube has created age-appropriate experiences for young people while giving parents the tools to control what their kids see. The other three companies have yet to respond publicly.

Photo: Priscilla Du Preez /Unsplash

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