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NYC sues social media giants over youth mental health crisis

NYC joins hundreds of school districts that have filed suits against social media companies for their role in the youth mental health crisis.
By admin
Feb 22, 2024, 3:21 PM

New York City filed a lawsuit on February 14 against TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube for their role in exacerbating the youth mental health crisis. The suit alleges that the tech giants’ addictive platforms have put a strain on cities, public schools and hospitals that provide mental health services to youth.  

 The complaint alleges that social media companies deliberately engineer their platforms to addict young users with tactics such as: 

  • Leveraging algorithms that keep young people on their platform for longer and compulsively  
  • Using gambling-inspired features that create a craving for the reward of “likes” while pushing tailored advertisements 
  • Exploiting the principle of reciprocity, particularly influential among teenagers, by using notifications and read receipts to foster a cycle of continuous platform interaction and instant communication

The lawsuit cites recent calls to action against social media platforms and their operators, including Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who issued a public health advisory last year on the negative effect social media has on youth and teens. 

In the lawsuit, the city seeks financial support for prevention education and aims to recover the added expenses associated with providing mental health care. Currently, the city spends over $100 million annually on youth mental health programs and services. Additionally, the city demands an order requiring social media giants to modify their practices. 

Along with the suit, NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced an action plan to overcome social media’s negative impact on youth mental health. The three-part plan includes educating youth and caregivers about social media use, researching social media’s affect on mental health, and demanding social media companies answer for their platforms’ safety.

“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 in a statement. “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.” 

Larger trend 

With the lawsuit, NYC joins hundreds of school districts nationwide that are taking legal action against social media giants to alter their conduct and recoup expenses from the growing youth mental health crisis. 

“Social media is a toxin in our digital environment, like lead, air pollution, and nicotine are in our physical one,” said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan in a statement. “Environmental toxins require regulation, control, and mitigation, and public health must build on its environmental health legacy to address this modern threat. New York City is employing a wide array of tools to fight back, including education and awareness, research, and regulation, and this lawsuit is the latest example of our city’s commitment to ensure young people are safe from the impacts of social media on mental health and wellbeing. The laissez-faire days for tech giants must end and expecting them to self-regulate is naïve. As a parent and as the city’s doctor, to protect the public’s health, we will not remain idle while these platforms damage the health of our children.” 

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