Meta, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok attempted to dismiss a lawsuit that includes hundreds of individual cases, but this attempt was denied by a US judge.
The legal hammer is preparing to take a swing at multiple companies in the US social media sector, due to claims their practices are causing addiction in young people.
The recent focus has been on Meta, after dozens of US attorneys general filed a federal lawsuit accusing the tech giant of harmful actions against children and teenagers.
But a recent court filing shows that Meta isn’t the only company being targeted, as multiple companies are facing a multidistrict litigation that encompasses hundreds of individual cases against these companies.
Alleged design defects
The litigation defendants include Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Google’s YouTube, SnapChat and ByteDance’s TikTok. The case includes claims that these sites are “defective” because they are designed to maximise screen time, which can encourage addictive behaviour in young people.
This case involves a combination of individual suits and the 140 actions brought on behalf of US school districts, filed jointly by more than 30 US attorneys general. There are claims that the conduct of these companies has resulted in “various emotional and physical harms, including death”, according to a US district court.
The companies recently attempted to dismiss “five priority claims” from the plaintiffs’ case, but this request was denied by a US federal judge.
The plaintiffs claim that these social media platforms have alleged “defects” in their design that can be harmful to children, such as a lack of parental controls, a lack of age verification, barriers to deleting content, filters for editing content and the “algorithmic prioritisation of content”.
But while the attempt to halt the lawsuit has been denied, the court filing also claims that the plaintiffs made “convoluted arguments” about the fact children are involved and suggested that the defendants owe a “heightened duty” on account of their age.
“At most, defendants are obligated to perform their duties to plaintiffs while bearing in mind that plaintiffs are children,” the court document reads. “They are not subject to a heighted or more exacting duty on this basis.”
Earlier this month, Meta whistleblower Arturo Béjar spoke out against the company’s practices and claimed that the tech giant is aware of the harm teenagers face on its platforms but has failed to act.
Béjar claimed that Meta has opted to give users “placebo” tools that fail to address issues impacting teenagers and that the company “continues to publicly misrepresent the level and frequency of harm that users, especially children, experience on the platform”.
Meanwhile, recently unredacted court documents suggest Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned down multiple initiatives from company executives that aimed to improve Meta’s platforms for young people.
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