New York City sues Meta, Google, Snap, and TikTok for allegedly harming children’s mental health

New York City is suing Meta, Google, Snap, and TikTok for allegedly harming children’s mental health. The state of New York has previously accused social media companies of deliberately seeking to get teens addicted to their apps

The state of New York has already accused social media companies of designing their feeds to keep teens using the app for unhealthy amounts of time, and proposed legislation to address this. If passed, the law would require kids to get parental permission to use apps with algorithmic feeds. This would include TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and more.

The bill is known as the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, and has the backing of the state’s governor and state attorney general.

Now New York City is adding its own voice, accusing four social media companies of “fueling nationwide youth mental health crisis.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams […] announced the filing of a lawsuit to hold five social media platforms – TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube – accountable for fueling the nationwide youth mental health crisis. The city is joining hundreds of school districts from across the country in filing litigation seeking to force tech giants to change their behavior […]

“Over the past decade, we have seen just how addictive and overwhelming the online world can be, exposing our children to a non-stop stream of harmful content and fueling our national youth mental health crisis,” said Mayor Adams. “Our city is built on innovation and technology, but many social media platforms end up endangering our children’s mental health, promoting addiction, and encouraging unsafe behavior. Today, we’re taking bold action on behalf of millions of New Yorkers to hold these companies accountable for their role in this crisis, and we’re building on our work to address this public health hazard. This lawsuit and action plan are part of a larger reckoning that will shape the lives of our young people, our city, and our society for years to come.”

The city says that the platforms purposefully seek to “manipulate and addict children” in three ways:

  • Using algorithms to generate feeds that keep users on the platforms longer and encourage compulsive use.
  • Using mechanics akin to gambling in the design of apps, which allow for anticipation and craving for “likes” and “hearts,” and also provides continuous, personalized streams of content and advertisements.
  • Manipulating users through reciprocity – a social force, especially powerful among teenagers, that describes how people feel compelled to respond to one positive action with another positive action. These platforms take advantage of reciprocity by, for example, automatically telling the sender when their message was seen or sending notifications when a message was delivered, encouraging teens to return to the platform again and again and perpetuating online engagement and immediate responses.

Engadget reports that none of the companies accept any of these claims.

In response, Google and Meta told CNBC that they have always worked with youth safety experts and provided parental control tools. ByteDance’s TikTok also highlighted some of its specific tools to Axios, namely age-restricted features, parental controls and an automatic 60-minute time limit for users under 18. However, none of the tech companies acknowledged the problematic features listed by the Adams administration.

These latest lawsuits will add to the hundreds of existing ones, which were recently allowed to proceed after social media platforms attempted to have them dismissed.

Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Read More

Ben Lovejoy