Scanning through a list of court filings last Friday evening, Jan. 6, one case jumped out immediately: “SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, Plaintiff, v. META PLATFORMS, INC., FACEBOOK HOLDINGS, LLC, INSTAGRAM, LLC, SNAP INC., TIKTOK INC., BYTEDANCE INC., ALPHABET INC., GOOGLE LLC, YOUTUBE, LLC,” it read, in part.
As a tech reporter based in Seattle, that certainly got my attention, and I wasn’t alone. After GeekWire broke the story last weekend, it made national news.
Here are some of the key points to know:
- Seattle Public Schools is suing the social media giants for damages stemming from what the suit describes as a youth mental health crisis in Seattle and across the country.
- That crisis, the suit alleges, has been caused by the deliberate actions of the companies in deploying algorithms designed “to maximize engagement by preying on the psychology of children.”
- Critics say the suit over-simplifies the causes of mental health challenges by pinning the blame on social media companies and not recognizing the responsibilities of parents and schools, and other societal factors.
- The suit, modeled after e-cigarette litigation, will also need to overcome some significant legal hurdles.
- But beyond the outcome of the lawsuit itself, what’s at stake is the national conversation over social media and youth mental health. The lawsuit has already succeeded in drawing more attention to the issue of youth mental health, and the roles and responsibilities of the companies behind some of today’s most popular apps.
On this episode of the GeekWire Podcast, we’re replaying highlights from my separate conversations about the lawsuit on two radio programs this week: Soundside on KUOW Public Radio in Seattle with host Libby Denkmann; and the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC Public Radio in New York.
Related Story: Are social media companies to blame for youth mental health crisis? It’s complicated