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NYC Mayor Eric Adams files lawsuit against social media platforms for alleged youth mental health crisis

Feb 15, 2024 04:51 PM IST

NYC Mayor Eric Adams' administration has sued social media platforms like TikTok, holding them reponsible for the alleged damage to youth mental health.

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams's administration took a bold step against social media companies, holding them accountable for contributing to a youth mental health crisis. The lawsuit filed hereby accuses TikTok, Instagram, Facebook (Meta), Snapchat, and YouTube of having a damaging influence on children. The City also created an action plan to address the ongoing crisis.

FILE PHOTO: New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a press conference amid an election fundraising controversy at City Hall in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 14, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Segar//File Photo(REUTERS)

Joining hands with hundreds of school districts and health organisations nationwide, the City seeks to push these tech giants to the edge, compelling them to change their behaviour. The lawsuit was filed in the California Superior Court since the companies are associated with the area.

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About the mental health crisis lawsuit against social media platforms filed by NYC Mayor Eric Adams

The city reportedly spends over $100 million annually on youth mental health programs. Analysing the “addictive and overwhelming” use of the online world over the past decade, Mayor Adams' advisory calls out the “non-stop stream of harmful content” that fuels the nationwide youth mental health crisis.

Although the advisory acknowledges that New York City is “built on innovation and technology”, these social media platforms have endangered youth mental health as they promote addiction and encourage unsafe behaviour.

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Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix also looked down upon these companies, choosing profit and neglecting children's wellbeing. The advisory recommends to parents, educators, health care providers and other concerned personnel that preventing social media use until age 14 among children can be adopted as a safeguarded means of protection.

Countering the allegations, A TikTok representative released a statement claiming that the company upholds “industry-leading safeguards” for teenagers that suggest age restrictions. A Google spokesperson chimed in by denying the allegations. The company claims to have a “healthier experience online” as a core identifier of their work. The representative also highlighted the built-in services for age-appropriate experiences while allowing parents access to robust controls.

New York Attorney General Letitia James applauded the NYC Mayor's initiative that holds these companies responsible for designing their platforms to “purposefully manipulate and addict children and teens to social media applications.”

Key points highlighted in the advisor disparage these companies for:

  • Using algorithms that generate specific feeds, keeping the users locked onto the platform, encouraging compulsive use
  • Using mechanics in the apps' design, which leaves the users craving for ‘likes’ and ‘hearts’, the design described as akin to gambling also provides endless streams of personalised content and ads.
  • Reciprocity manipulates users, compelling them to react to one positive action with another. This cycle of reciprocity constantly keeps the users updated about a message being seen or notifications of a message being delivered, promoting returning visits to the platform on a loop and perpetuating online engagement and immediacy.

The NYC update reported the growing number of mental health crises. NYC has over 38% of high school students feeling hopeless or extremely sad the past year, resulting in them dropping their usual engagement in certain activities. In 2021, the rate of hopelessness was almost 50% higher among Latino and Black high school students than their white counterparts. The unbalanced ratio of hopelessness between female and male students was 70 to 30.

The report also confirms the distressing statistics, which state that one-third of 13 to 17-year-old children in the country use social media “almost constantly”.

This isn't the first time the Adams administration has taken action to address the youth mental health crisis. In 2023, the New York City Mayor launched TeenSpace, a free mental health support program available to NYC teenagers aged 13 to 17. In addition, in March 2023, the administration also launched “Care Community Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City”, another mental health plan that aims to tackle the health hazard plaguing children and young people.

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