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Judge Rejects Social Media Companies’ Efforts to Dismiss Lawsuits

pree-teen girl using social media on phone

A federal judge in Oakland, California, has ruled against major social media companies, rejecting their efforts to dismiss nationwide litigation accusing them of illegally enticing and addicting millions of children to their platforms.

The lawsuits against Alphabet (Google and YouTube), Meta Platforms (Facebook and Instagram), ByteDance (TikTok) and Snap (Snapchat) claim that the excessive use of social media has caused negative physical, mental and emotional health effects on children, including anxiety, depression and even suicide, Reuters reported Tuesday (Nov. 14).

The ruling, made by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, applies to hundreds of individual lawsuits filed on behalf of children who have allegedly suffered harm due to their social media use, the report said.

The plaintiffs seek various remedies, including damages and a halt to the defendants’ alleged wrongful practices, per the report.

More than 140 school districts have launched litigation against the industry, according to the report. In addition, 42 states, along with the District of Columbia, have filed lawsuits against Meta Platforms for youth addiction to its social media platforms.

Judge Rogers’ ruling rejected arguments put forth by the social media companies, stating that they were not immune from being sued under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and a provision of the federal Communications Decency Act, the report said.

The companies had claimed that Section 230 of the Act provided them with immunity from liability for user-generated content, per the report. However, the judge said that the plaintiffs’ claims extended beyond third-party content and argued that the companies should be held liable for providing defective parental controls. For example, the judge highlighted the failure to implement age-verification tools that could have warned parents when their children were online.

In another effort to curb social media’s impact on children, China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), introduced regulations in August that are said to be some of the toughest restrictions on internet use on the planet.

The rules block children from accessing the internet from mobile devices between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., limit those between the ages of 16 and 18 to two hours of mobile use, and require platforms to offer lullabies, educational news and entertainment.