Eleven School Districts Sue Facebook, Other Social Media Companies, Alleging “Addictive And Dangerous” Platforms

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Social Media
These school district lawsuits are part of a broader federal lawsuit involving parents, school districts, and state governments suing the companies for similar reasons. File photo: View Apart, ShutterStock.com, licensed.

BELLMORE, NY – This week, eleven school districts on Long Island filed lawsuits against Facebook and other major social media platforms, claiming that these platforms are contributing to an increase in mental health issues among students. The districts also allege that the platforms have led to significant financial and resource challenges for the schools.

Additional school districts on Long Island, more than two dozen, are expected to file similar lawsuits, according to William Shinoff, an attorney based in San Diego, California, who represents numerous districts across Long Island and around 1,000 districts nationwide.

The school officials are seeking financial compensation to cover the costs of hiring mental health professionals, revising lesson plans to address the negative impacts of social media, and investigating online threats to the school communities. Nicholas Ciappetta, president of the South Huntington Board of Education, told Long Island Newsday the disruptive influence of social media posts on the school environment and called for social media companies to take responsibility and implement safeguards to monitor harmful content. “We want social media companies to take responsibility and to implement appropriate safeguards to ensure that they’re monitoring these types of things.”

The lawsuits, nearly identical and five pages long, accuse the social media companies of negligence and being a public nuisance. Filed in federal court in California, these lawsuits also name Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube as defendants. These school district lawsuits are part of a broader federal lawsuit involving parents, school districts, and state governments suing the companies for similar reasons.

In October 2023, Letitia James, New York State Attorney General, along with attorneys general from 32 other states, filed similar lawsuits alleging that the companies created addictive features harming young people’s mental health. The school districts claim they are at the forefront of addressing the damage caused by the algorithms targeting children, who are particularly vulnerable to addictive digital features.

The school districts involved in the lawsuit include Brentwood, Bellmore-Merrick, East Islip, Great Neck, Islip, Jericho, Kings Park, North Merrick, Port Jefferson, South Huntington, and Westbury. These lawsuits follow a recent call by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy for warning labels on social media platforms, similar to those on cigarette packages, highlighting the mental health risks for adolescents.

Representatives for Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment but have previously denied similar allegations in other lawsuits filed nationwide. A Snapchat spokesperson highlighted their platform’s role in connecting friends and addressing adolescent challenges, while a Google spokesperson, representing YouTube, dismissed the allegations, emphasizing their efforts to provide safer, age-appropriate experiences for young users.

Jericho Superintendent Hank Grishman expressed concerns about the time students spend on social media and the misinformation available, calling for stronger safeguards to protect students’ personal information and monitor their internet activity. Shinoff, representing the school districts, stated that they want social media companies to implement stricter age-verification processes and provide parents and schools with better tools to monitor children’s access to these platforms.

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