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New York sues popular social networks for 'damaging children's psyche'


Alina Prikhodko

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New York City Hall sued to popular social networks: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. City officials say the platforms are harming the mental health of young people.

City officials believe social media platforms are responsible for rising rates of mental health problems among young people, including depression. This places significant strain on city governments, school districts and public hospitals. IN claim New York authorities are demanding compensation from TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube and the allocation of money to fund preventive measures and treatment of mental illness.

“Over the past decade, we have seen how addictive and overwhelming the online world can be, exposing our children to a constant stream of harmful content and exacerbating the mental health crisis among young people,” said Mayor Adams. “Our city embraces innovation and technology, but many social media platforms are putting our children's mental health at risk, promoting addiction and encouraging unsafe behavior.” This lawsuit is part of a larger project that will shape the lives of our youth, our city and our community for years to come.”

On the subject: Due to challenges in social networks, the number of deaths in the New York subway has increased

The lawsuit was filed in the California Supreme Court by the City of New York, the New York City Department of Education and the NYC H+H hospital system. The lawsuit alleges that TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube intentionally designed their platforms to manipulate children and teenagers into engaging with social media apps. The New York City mayor's office believes that social networks did this through:

  1. Using algorithms to create channels that keep users on platforms longer and encourage compulsive use.
  2. Using gambling-like mechanics in app design when a person develops an unhealthy thirst for “likes.”
  3. Manipulating users through reciprocity, a social force that is especially powerful among teenagers. This is a situation where people feel forced to respond to one positive action with another positive action.
  4. Applying persistent notifications (message delivered, message read, etc.) that force users to constantly open applications.

The lawsuit explicitly states that the companies' "willful conduct and negligence have been a significant factor in fueling the youth mental health crisis."

Environmental toxin

Previously Adams and the City Health Department recognized Social media is a “threat to public health” and an “environmental toxin.”

In this regard, the city published action plan in relation to social networks. It has three main directions:

  • the requirement for social networks to ensure the safety of their platforms for young people;
  • training young people and their families, teachers and doctors on healthy social media use;
  • research on the influence of social networks on young people.

More than 38% of New York City high school students say that in the past year they have felt so sad or overwhelmed at least once that they stopped doing their normal activities.

Today, more than a third of children aged 13 to 17 in the United States say they use social media “almost constantly” and admit that it is “too much.” However, more than half of them say it would be difficult for them to reduce their use of social media.

Prospects for a claim

In the US, it is difficult to sue social media platforms due to the federal Section 230 law. This is part of the Communications Ethics Act of 1996. The document states that technology companies cannot be held responsible for the content that users publish on their pages.

However, outside the United States, content on social networks is more tightly controlled. For example, in the EU, according to the Digital Services Act (DSA), companies can be held liable: for violating the DSA, platforms face a fine of up to 6% of global turnover.

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