Schools and parents take on social media

Courts will soon face a complicated question with ramifications for the internet as we know it: Who’s responsible for how social media affects young people?

Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and multiple school districts are suing platforms including TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Meta.

The complaints? These platforms cause or exacerbate mental health issues among youth, and are intentionally designed to “exploit for profit.”

Bucks County DA Matthew Weintraub likened it to the opioid crisis, with “manufacturers and distributors causing havoc among young people in our communities.”

What do plaintiffs want?

For social media to change, and for companies to pay damages to fund mental health initiatives, a burden currently placed on parents and schools.

Case in point: Seattle and San Mateo County, California, school systems are suing several social media companies, with San Mateo County Superintendent Nancy Magee blaming them for distracted students, cyberbullying, and worse.

  • Apparently, the “Devious Lick” challenge saw students stealing and vandalizing school property, especially in restrooms, before TikTok banned the hashtag.
  • Schools have been locked down due to active shooter hoaxes that spread via social media.

More broadly…

… there’s been a push to hold social media companies accountable for what people do on, or because of, their platforms.

  • Recent lawsuits have challenged Section 230, which protects website operators from liability for what users post or comment.

Companies have touted various safety features in response, but experts say some, like screen limits, are easy for teens to skirt.

The ultimate question is: Can platforms truly be held accountable and, if so, will hitting them in the pocketbook force them to change?

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