A US federal judge, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, denied attempts by major social media companies to dismiss a nationwide lawsuit against Alphabet (Google and YouTube), Meta Platforms (Facebook and Instagram), ByteDance (TikTok), and Snap (Snapchat), are accused of engaging in illegal practices that entice and addict millions of children to their platforms, adversely affecting their mental health.
The ruling, made in Oakland, California, sets the stage for hundreds of lawsuits filed on behalf of children who reportedly suffered from mental, emotional, and physical health issues due to social media use. These issues range from anxiety and depression to, in some cases, suicide. The litigation seeks damages and an end to the alleged harmful practices of these companies.
This decision marks a victory for the plaintiffs, with more than 140 school districts filing similar lawsuits and 42 states plus the District of Columbia suing Meta over youth addiction issues. In response, Alphabet defended its practices, emphasizing its commitment to child safety, while TikTok highlighted its safety policies and parental controls. Snap declined to comment, and Meta did not respond to requests for comments.
Detailed Ruling and Future Legal Directions
In her 52-page ruling, Judge Rogers addressed the companies’ immunity claims under the US Constitution’s First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230. She dismissed these arguments, stating that the plaintiffs’ claims extend beyond third-party content and involve issues like defective parental controls and account deactivation barriers.
Rogers highlighted that the companies could have implemented age-verification tools as a preventive measure. The ruling establishes that as product makers, these companies must design safe products and warn users of known defects. However, she clarified that they are not obligated to protect users from harm caused by third-party users on their platforms, narrowing the scope of the litigation by dismissing some claims pursued by the plaintiffs.
This decision sets a precedent in the ongoing battle over social media’s impact on children’s health and the responsibilities of these platforms.”