NYC Files Lawsuit Against Social Media Companies for ‘Fueling the Nationwide Youth Mental Health Crisis’

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced that the city is suing five top social media companies for “fueling the nationwide youth mental health crisis.”

The lawsuit, filed in California on Wednesday, names Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Snap’s Snapchat, ByteDance’s TikTok, and Google’s YouTube.

“New York City, like other parts of this nation, is battling an unprecedented mental health crisis among its youth and serious disruption to the public health, fueled by Defendants’ creation and promotion of addictive and dangerous social media platforms,” the 305-page lawsuit’s introduction begins. “Youth are now addicted to Defendants’ platforms in droves, resulting in substantial interference with school district operations and imposing a large burden on cities, school districts and public hospital systems that provide mental health services to youth.”

The lawsuit alleges that the companies drive youth usage through “behavioral and neurobiological techniques used in slot machines and exploited by the cigarette industry.”

The complaint continues, “Defendants know children and adolescents are in a developmental stage that leaves them particularly vulnerable to the addictive effects of these features. Defendants target them anyway, in pursuit of additional profit.”

The city argues that “Likes” have “replaced the intimacy of adolescent friendships. Mindless scrolling has displaced the creativity of play and sport. While presented as ‘social,’ Defendants’ platforms have in a myriad of ways promoted disconnection, disassociation, and a legion of resulting mental and physical harms.”

In a press release, the mayor’s office said the city spends more than $100 million annually on youth mental health programs and services.

“Over the past decade, we have seen just how addictive and overwhelming the online world can be, exposing our children to a non-stop stream of harmful content and fueling our national youth mental health crisis,” said Mayor Adams.

Adams continued, “Our city is built on innovation and technology, but many social media platforms end up endangering our children’s mental health, promoting addiction, and encouraging unsafe behavior. Today, we’re taking bold action on behalf of millions of New Yorkers to hold these companies accountable for their role in this crisis, and we’re building on our work to address this public health hazard. This lawsuit and action plan are part of a larger reckoning that will shape the lives of our young people, our city, and our society for years to come.”

In addition to the lawsuit, the mayor’s office announced that it will advocate with state and federal policymakers to put in place laws requiring social media companies to ensure their platforms are safe for youth mental health.

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