Google, Meta and other social media companies will be forced to defend teen addiction lawsuits

A federal judge has rejected the companies' efforts to dismiss the lawsuits.

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US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has ruled that the companies that own and run the most popular social networks today will have the face lawsuits blaming them for teenagers' social media addiction. According to Bloomberg Law, that means Google, which owns YouTube, Meta which runs Facebook and Instagram, ByteDance, which owns TikTok, and Snap can't get out of hundreds of federal lawsuits filed against them over the past couple of years.

Rogers, who'll be overseeing the cases, disagreed with the companies' argument that they're not liable for personal injury claims under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 protects publishers from what their users post on their platforms, but the judge said the lawsuits cover more than just third-party content. Further, she said the companies had failed to explain why they shouldn't be held responsible for other complaints against them, including defective parental controls, the failure to implement effective age verification systems and adding barriers to the account deactivation process. At the same time, the just dismissed some of the complaints, such as the ones suing the companies for failing to limit certain kinds of content.

The lawsuits in questions were filed on behalf of minors across the country. In 2022, a mother from Connecticut sued Meta and Snap, accusing them of causing an addiction in her 11-year-old daughter who took her own life. In October this year, Meta was sued by 41 states as well as the District of Columbia, accusing the company of knowing that its "addictive" features were harmful to children and teens. Companies like Meta have been facing increased scrutiny over the past couple of years after former employee Frances Haugen revealed an internal Facebook research that found Instagram to be "harmful for a sizable percentage of teens."

Google spokesperson José Castañeda told Bloomberg Law that protecting children has always been core to the company's work. "In collaboration with child development specialists, we have built age-appropriate experiences for kids and families on YouTube, and provide parents with robust controls," he added. "The allegations in these complaints are simply not true." A TikTok spokesperson gave Reuters a similar statement and said the app has "robust safety policies and parental controls."