New York City sues social media giants for youth mental health crisis

Notably, the owners of X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, weren't named as a defendant in the suit. A spokeswoman said that's because X isn't as popular with young audiences as the other five platforms. — Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Adams' administration sued the owners of five major social media platforms Wednesday with an aim to hold them "financially responsible" for the city's youth mental health crisis, joining a wave of similar legal actions brought by jurisdictions across the country.

The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, alleges the owners of TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat "knew or should have known" that their platforms would harm the mental health and wellbeing of children and teens.

Specifically, the suit charges the platforms' "dangerous and addictive" algorithms are driving up rates of suicide, radicalisation, self-harm, anxiety and depression among youth as they're designed to boost engagement even if that comes from advancing violent, sexist and racist material.

To that end, said in a livestreamed speech at on Wednesday afternoon that the owners of those platforms should be held "financially responsible for what they cost our city year and year."

At a press conference later in the day, and his advisers noted the city spends about US$100mil (RM477mil) per year on youth mental health programs. But they wouldn't give a dollar figure for the punitive damages they want the social media giants to pay the city.

"At this time, to give you a number of what we expect is not something we're prepared to do," , the city's corporation counsel, told reporters.

Ashwin Vasan, Adams' health commissioner, acknowledged litigation can only go so far when it comes to reforming social media platforms. He said congressional legislation is ultimately going to be required to overhaul social media platforms' focus on catering to young audiences because "we know they are not going anywhere."

"No one is talking about a ban here," he added.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of declaring social media a public health crisis last month, a mostly symbolic move that encourages New Yorkers to ensure that their children don't overuse social media.

In response to the lawsuit, a spokeswoman for Meta, the company that owns and Instagram, said the platforms already have "over 30 tools and features" to help parents make social media safe for their kids.

"We've spent a decade working on these issues and hiring people who have dedicated their careers to keeping young people safe and supported online," the spokeswoman, , said.

Jose Castañeda, a spokesman for Google, which owns YouTube, said its platform has also developed policies to give "parents robust controls."

"The allegations in this complaint are simply not true," Castañeda added.

Reps for the parent companies of and TikTok didn't immediately return requests for comment.

Notably, the owners of X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, weren't named as a defendant in the suit. A spokeswoman said that's because X isn't as popular with young audiences as the other five platforms.

The city's suit was filed together with Keller Rohrback, a -based law firm specialisng in large-scale class action cases. Hinds-Radix said the firm will only get paid a percentage of any damages awarded.

The administration's legal action comes months after Attorney General filed a federal lawsuit in October with a coalition of other states similarly seeking to hold Meta responsible for contributing "to a national youth mental health crisis."

Hundreds of school districts across the country have also filed similar lawsuits, starting with a case brought by Seattle's public school system in early 2023. – tca/dpa

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Tech News

Canada to push ahead with digital services tax on global tech firms starting 2024
'Grand Theft Auto' publisher Take-Two Interactive to lay off 5% of staff
Vote on EU cybersecurity label delayed to May, sources say
Social media platform X withholds some political posts in India after election commission order
Portugal's far-right Chega vows legal action over 10-year Facebook curbs
AMD introduces AI chips for business laptops and desktops
Startup Rivos raises $250 million to develop RISC-V AI chips
Bain proposes Japan's Kioxia IPO to clear $5.8 billion loan refinance
Meta oversight board reviews handling of AI-created celebrity porn
UK starts drafting AI regulations for most powerful models

Others Also Read