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school district’s complaint against tech giants

Anxiety and growing depression among students, suicide attempts: officials from public schools in Seattle, USA, have filed a complaint against social networks such as Facebook or TikTok, accusing them of“affected” to young people’s mental health. This complaint targets Facebook and Instagram, which are part of the Meta group, but also Snapchat, Youtube, as well as the Chinese TikTok and its parent company ByteDance or Google and its parent company Alphabet.

Officials from public schools in this city located in the state of Washington, in the northwestern part of the country, explain that they want “hold social media companies accountable for harm they have caused to the social, emotional and mental health of their students”according to a press release. “The increase in suicides, suicide attempts and mental health-related emergency room visits is no accident. (…) This crisis was already worsening before the pandemic, and research has identified that social networks play a major role in the onset of mental problems in young people.they add.

‘A mental health crisis’

In this complaint, filed on Friday and which AFP was able to consult on Sunday, they accuse these companies of exploiting “the psychology and neurophysiology of their users to spend more and more time on their platforms, (…) creating a mental health crisis among young Americans”. This they condemn, “for profit”because “the more time users spend on these platforms, the more ads the defendant can sell”. The district, which explains it has put in place resources, including human resources, to help students, believes these tech giants need to put their hands in their pockets: “Taxpayers should not bear the burden of the mental health crisis created by social media companies”.

“In his 2022 State of the Union address, President Joe Biden … asked that”hold social media platforms accountable for the nationwide experiment they are conducting on our children for profit,” the Seattle School District said in its complaint. “take this action to do just that”. Contacted by AFP, Google said it had “invested heavily in creating safe experiences for children on our platforms”and “introduces strong protections and dedicated features to prioritize their well-being”according to José Castañeda, a spokesman.

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