New York City Sues TikTok, Facebook, YouTube In Their Home Turf Los Angeles Over Alleged Harm To Kids' Mental Health

New York City has taken legal action against major social media platforms TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube for allegedly causing mental health issues among young users.

What Happened: On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city has filed a lawsuit against ByteDance, Meta Platforms Inc. META, Snap Inc. SNAP and Alphabet Inc. GOOG GOOGL, the parent companies of these platforms. Notably, all these companies are headquartered in California.

The lawsuit, filed in the Los Angeles County branch of the California Superior Court, accuses the companies of deliberately designing and marketing their platforms to attract and addict young users, with minimal parental oversight, CNBC reported. 

See Also: Meta Steps Up for Child Online Safety: Zuckerberg to Testify as Company Tightens Privacy Controls

The plaintiffs, including the city of New York, school districts, and health organizations, argue that the tech companies have violated several city laws related to public nuisance and gross negligence through the design and marketing of their addictive products. 

They claim that the mental health of children in New York has been severely impacted by their use of popular social media apps.

Mayor Adams stated, “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.”

According to a TikTok spokesperson, the company boasts “industry-leading safeguards” tailored for teenagers, encompassing parental controls and age restriction features.

"We regularly partner with experts to understand emerging best practices, and will continue to work to keep our community safe by tackling industry-wide challenges," the spokesperson said.

A Google spokesperson also dismissed the allegations saying they are "simply not true."

"Providing young people with a safer, healthier experience online has always been core to our work," said Google. "In collaboration with youth, mental health and parenting experts, we've built services and policies to give young people age-appropriate experiences, and parents robust controls."

Meta stated that it has dedicated “a decade working on these issues” and aims to provide teenagers with secure, age-appropriate online experiences, boasting over 30 tools and features to support both teens and their parents.

A spokesperson from Snap stated that “Snapchat was intentionally designed to be different from traditional social media,”  highlighting its focus on fostering intimate conversations among close friends.

"Snapchat opens directly to a camera – rather than a feed of content that encourages passive scrolling – and has no traditional public likes or comments," the Snap spokesperson said.

Why It Matters: The lawsuit filed by New York City is the latest in a series of actions taken against major social media platforms for their impact on children’s mental health. This move comes amid increasing scrutiny of tech companies’ responsibility for the well-being of young users.

In September 2023, the U.K. urged Meta to prioritize child safety over encryption on Instagram and Facebook Messenger, expressing concerns about potential risks to children from sexual abuse.

In January 2024, Meta stepped up for child online safety by partnering with the Center for Open Science ahead of a crucial congressional hearing on children's online safety. This collaboration involved sharing "privacy-preserving social media data" with select researchers focusing on well-being.

However, despite these efforts, tech companies continue to face criticism for their alleged negligence in protecting kids. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on children's safety online earlier this month, lawmakers expressed frustration over the industry's self-policing failures, with little concrete progress being made.

Photo by William Hook on Unsplash

Check out more of Benzinga’s Consumer Tech coverage by following this link.

Read Next: Meta Gets 22% Price Target Boost Ahead Of Q4 Results As Analyst Pins Hopes On Ad Market Recovery, Reels Strength

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of Benzinga Neuro and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: NewsSocial MediaLegalTechMediabenzinga neuroConsumer TechEric AdamsFacebookInstagramlawsuitSnapChatSoftware & AppsTikTokYouTube
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!