Rome, 8 Jan – In appearance what could become a real judicial storm against the platforms comes from the United States, and precisely from Seattle: an unprecedented case up to now, above all due to the fact that the protagonists are the city’s educational institutions which have untried lawsuit against Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp), Google (YouTube), TikTok and Snap, the company that controls SnapChat.
Seattle schools declare war on Instagram and TikTok
Up to now, the few precedents had been brought by individual users or some families, but it is the first time that all the schools in a metropolis have joined forces in a judicial attack against the platforms. But what exactly are they contesting? The plaintiffs of the case themselves explain it in a detailed press release: «the defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of young people, hooking tens of millions of students across the country through a vicious loop of positive social media responses that leads to overuse and abuse of the platforms. Worse still, the content that the defendants propose and address to young people is too often harmful and aimed at exploitation for economic interests”.
The large ninety-one page document is a harsh indictment of digital platforms and their alleged modus operandi, guilty of having triggered emulative phenomena and dependence, both emotional and social, which would have diverted and distracted young people from school learning. In essence, schools believe that Instagram and TikTok have, albeit indirectly hampered their institutional workand, in addition to having exacerbated problems such as depression, states of anxiety and nervousness in young people.
And if, as we have noted, this judgment will be a unique in American judicial history due to the particularity of the plaintiffs, all institutions, it must be said that the two-year period 2021-2022 was characterized by a very considerable dispute promoted by families worried about mental health, school results and the future of their children a little too much, according to them, addicted to social communication. In some cases, according to what he found Bloomberg, the judgments promoted have covered very delicate and heavy nuances; families have in fact accused the tech giants of having facilitated the suicide of their children.
The Facebook Files
And if on the one hand it must be said that the two-year period in question was one of the toughest for social relations and for the happiness of individuals, marked as it was by lockdowns, limitations and forced virtuality, to convince families and institutions of the responsibilities of the social media giants there was the revelation conducted by a series of investigations of the Wall Street Journalthe so-called Facebook Filesoriginating from the burning revelations made by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.
One of Haugen’s most serious allegations is that Meta knowingly allegedly acted by leveraging the vulnerability of the youngest. In the present case, the modeling of the Facebook algorithm would have ended up in the spotlight, which according to Haugen would be rewarding more polarizing and divisive contents, as well as an internal report at Instagram which would have revealed the full awareness of being able to generate devastating emotional effects on guys who use the well-known photography platform. Indeed, a report dating back to 2020 revealed by the Instagram team, and therefore with full awareness, how much – about a third of the sample reached by the statistical surveys – of the girls not comfortable with your physique suffered a lot in emotional terms the presence on Instagram, feeling even worse. Precisely for this reason, in the absence of a precise legislative intervention by Washington, Seattle schools have apparently decided to move independently.
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War-torn Seattle schools sue Instagram and TikTok: ‘They poison young people for profit’