Meta, Alphabet, ByteDance must face social media addiction lawsuits


A federal judge on Tuesday rejected efforts by major social media companies to dismiss nationwide litigation accusing them of illegally enticing and then addicting millions of children to their platforms, damaging their mental health.

US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, ruled against Alphabet, which operates Google and YouTube; Meta Platforms, which operates Facebook and Instagram; ByteDance, which operates TikTok; and Snap, which operates Snapchat.

The decision covers hundreds of lawsuits filed on behalf of individual children who allegedly suffered negative physical, mental and emotional health effects from social media use including anxiety, depression, and occasionally suicide.

The litigation seeks, among other remedies, damages and a halt to the defendants' alleged wrongful practices.

More than 140 school districts have filed similar lawsuits against the industry, and 42 states plus the District of Columbia last month sued Meta for youth addiction to its social media platforms.

The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The plaintiffs' lead lawyers - Lexi Hazam, Previn Warren and Chris Seeger - in a joint statement called the ruling "a significant victory for the families that have been harmed by the dangers of social media."

In her 52-page ruling, Rogers rejected arguments that the companies were immune from being sued under the US Constitution's First Amendment and a provision of the federal Communications Decency Act that shields internet companies from third-party actions.

The companies said that provision, Section 230, provides immunity from liability for anything users publish on their platforms, and required the dismissal of all claims.

But Rogers said the plaintiffs' claims were broader than just focusing on third-party content, and the defendants did not address why they should not be liable for providing defective parental controls.

She cited as an example allegations that companies could have used age-verification tools to warn parents when their children were online.

"Accordingly, they pose a plausible theory under which failure to validly verify user age harms users that is distinct from harm caused by consumption of third-party content on defendants' platforms," Rogers wrote.

The judge, though, dismissed some claims that the defendants' platforms were defectively designed.


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