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New York City sues social media giants for fueling youth mental health crisis

New York City, together with its school district and public hospital system, are suing social media companies TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube for fueling a youth mental health crisis.

The lawsuit alleges that these companies intentionally designed their platforms to be addictive and harmful to young people's mental health, leading to increased mental health problems, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, and even suicide among youth. These features include:

  • Using algorithms to generate feeds that keep users on the platforms longer and encourage compulsive use.

  • Using mechanics akin to gambling in the design of apps, which allow for anticipation and craving for "likes" and "hearts," and also provides continuous, personalized streams of content and advertisements.

  • Using reciprocity to manipulate users - a social force that describes how people feel compelled to respond to one positive action with another positive action, for example, automatically telling the sender when their message was seen or sending notifications when a message was delivered, encouraging teens to return to the platform again and again and perpetuating online engagement and immediate responses.

The lawsuit seeks to hold the companies accountable for their actions and recover the costs of addressing the crisis as the city spend more than $100 million (approx. RM478 million) every year on youth mental health crisis. In addition to the lawsuit, the city is also releasing a social media action plan that includes:

  • Providing education and support to young people and families on how to use social media safely and responsibly.

  • Studying the long-term impacts of social media on youth mental health.

  • Advocating for state and federal laws that require social media companies to protect young people's mental health.

Full press release here.


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