One more school district sues to put social media giants in their place

Citing devastating student mental health, the San Mateo County Board of Education filed a lawsuit against high-profile companies over "provocative and toxic" content.

In California, one school board is standing up for student health and well-being as they take legal action against some of the largest social media companies in the world for their alleged contribution to plummeting mental health among consumers.

In a 107-page lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of the San Mateo County Board of Education and Superintendent Nancy Magee, some of the most influential names in social media, including YouTube, Google, Snap Inc. and TikTok, were called out for creating a “destructive environment for children,” inevitably leaving teachers and parents to pick up the pieces.

Earlier this year, Seattle Public Schools made a similar move against TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook citing mental health concerns.

According to the lawsuit, these companies use artificial intelligence and machine learning to tailor and deliver damaging content to users.

“Just as we had ‘Big Tobacco’ we now have ‘Big Tech’ exploiting children—one need only follow the tech lobby’s swift and forceful attacks on recent efforts by our California Legislature to put in place common sense rules to address the tracking and profiling of users under the age of 18,” Joe Cotchett, an attorney for the firm representing the school board, said in a statement.

The lawsuit also alleges that tech companies knowingly cultivated an “unprecedented mental health crisis” in an attempt to create addictive platforms.

“As outlined in the Complaint, there is hard science behind the claim that social media is fueling a mental health epidemic in school-age children; every day schools are dealing with the fallout, which includes distracted students, increased absences, more children diagnosed with ADHD, cyber-bullying that carries into the classroom, and even physical damage to our San Mateo Schools, an example is the vandalism caused by the TikTok so-called ‘Devious Lick Challenge’ at the start of the school year,” said Magee in a statement.

However, one Google spokesperson said the company has taken measures to ensure children’s experience across all of their platforms is safe, FOX Business reports.

“For example, through Family Link, we provide parents with the ability to set reminders, limit screen time and block specific types of content on supervised devices,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“Nothing is more important to us than the well-being of our community,” a Snap spokesperson said in a statement. “At Snapchat, we curate content from known creators and publishers and use human moderation to review user-generated content before it can reach a large audience, which greatly reduces the spread and discovery of harmful content.”

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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