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Pittsburgh Public Schools Files Sweeping Lawsuit Against Social Media Companies

— April 8, 2023

The lawsuit alleges that many large social media companies conspired to create products that would “inducive” children to “compulsive” use.

Pittsburgh Public Schools has filed a lawsuit against social media companies and technology corporations, alleging that they designed products intended to “induce” youth to “compulsively” use their services.

The companies named as defendants in the lawsuit include Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Pittsburgh Public Schools solicitor Ira Weiss told WTAE t0068at it appears that social media companies actively conspired to make young people addicted to different websites and applications.

“I think they are all guilty,” Weiss said. “Obviously, some of them are bigger than others, and some are more heavily used than others, but certainly, we think they are all complicit in this.”

The lawsuit suggests that many social media applications and products include features that manipulate children and teenagers into continuously and compulsively interacting with different revenue-generating services.

“Defendants deliberately embedded in their services an array of design features aimed at maximizing youth engagement to drive advertising revenue. Defendants know children are in a developmental stage that leaves them particularly vulnerable to the addictive effects of these features. Defendants target them anyway, in pursuit of additional profit,” the lawsuit alleges.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The lawsuit, writes WTAE, cited several examples of the potential harms of social media, including that of so-called “viral challenges.”

Weiss and other district attorneys opined that many viral challenges are dangerous, and encourage children to place themselves in potentially life-threatening situations.

“Any issue we have involving kids in terms of the things they do at home or with their peers, that has a negative impact,” Weiss said. “The schools feels that.”

WTAE notes that Pittsburgh Public Schools filed its lawsuit around the same time that the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, spoke to local media about the need for improved safety procedures for social media websites and technologies.

“We need to have requirements on data transparency so the independent researchers can assess the data that’s out there that companies have about how this technology is impacting our kids, so we also know who s most at risk for bad outcomes,” Murthy said.

Murthy told WTAE that surveys show that an estimated 50% of children ages 10-12 are on social media, while around 33% of children ages 7-9 have their own independent or monitored social media accounts.

“There needs to be action taken at a legislative level to increase the age at which it is permissible to use this technology,” Murthy said.

Weiss told WTAE that similar lawsuits have been successfully resolved.


Pittsburgh Public Schools file federal lawsuit against multiple social media platforms

Pittsburgh Public Schools files lawsuit against major social media companies

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