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Mental Health

New York City Takes Legal Action Against Social Media Platforms

— March 5, 2024

NYC is taking legal action alleging social media addiction is causing financial strain.

There have been concerns about the impact of social media on mental health for many years. Plenty of studies have indicated that social media has the potential to negatively impact individuals who use such platforms regularly, and those impacts seem to be even greater with regard to kids. As more and more attention is paid to this topic, legal action is starting to be taken in various places. Recently, it was New York City that decided to levy a lawsuit against some of the biggest players in the game, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. Where these lawsuits might go in the months and years to come is yet to be seen, but they are certainly increasing the pressure on social media platforms to attempt to operate in a manner that is more considerate of the mental health of their users.

For a place like New York City, the issues related to youth mental health are not only moral, they are financial, as well. The city is incurring massive costs – as much as $100 million in a year – in an attempt to provide mental health services to young people. If the social media networks are adding to the need to support youth who are harmed by those technologies, the city argues that they should be forced to pay for what they are doing to young people.

New York City Takes Legal Action Against Social Media Platforms
Photo by JÉSHOOTS from Pexels

If the city is successful in its suit, it will not only gain monetary damages from the social media networks, but also secure funding for mental health treatment and prevention education. In some ways, this kind of legal action taken by cities like New York could be compared to other previous actions taken by government agencies against the manufacturers of tobacco, firearms, and more. Those past steps have clearly been a net positive for society as a whole and countless young people who have benefitted from protections, so there is precedent for government agencies stepping in and stopping forces that are harming the youth in their jurisdiction.

Predictably, the social media networks are not going to simply accept these allegations without fighting back. They claim that the tools are already in place to help users protect their mental health, and they can’t force users to take advantage of those features. Also, the longstanding Section 230 law, which protects companies from liability related to user-generated content and has traditionally covered social media platforms, is going to come under fire as part of this legal process.

It might prove to be difficult for New York City or any other entity to successfully sue social media companies on the grounds that they are harming youth and placing a burden on public services. However, the simple existence of these lawsuits brings attention to the matter and will hopefully cause more attention to be paid to whether or not kids – or anyone – should be using tools that can have such a profound negative impact on human mental health.


New York City sues social media platforms over youth mental health crisis


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