NYC Files Lawsuit Against TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube

New York City, along with its Department of Education and public hospital system, filed a lawsuit against five major social media platforms: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. The city accuses these companies of contributing to a nationwide youth mental health crisis by intentionally designing their platforms to be addictive and harmful to young people.

The city joins numerous school districts across the country in seeking to hold tech giants responsible for their platforms’ impact on the mental well-being of children and teenagers.

The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, accuses the social media companies of intentionally designing their platforms with features that manipulate and addict young users. These features include algorithms that encourage compulsive use, mechanics similar to gambling for likes and hearts, and manipulative tactics through reciprocity, compelling users to continually engage with the platforms.

Mayor Eric Adams announced the filing of a lawsuit to hold five social media platforms—TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube—accountable for fueling the nationwide youth mental health crisis. Photo Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Adams emphasized the city’s commitment to addressing the harmful consequences of social media on the mental health of its youth. The legal action seeks not only to change the behavior of these platforms but also to recover the costs incurred by the city, which spends over $100 million annually on youth mental health programs.

Accompanying the lawsuit, Mayor Adams unveiled a comprehensive social media action plan titled “New York City’s Role in the National Crisis of Social Media and Youth Mental Health: Framework for Action.” The plan aims to hold social media companies accountable, provide education and support to young people and their families, and conduct long-term studies on the impacts of social media on youth.

Photo Credit:  Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) had previously issued an advisory, likening unfettered access to social media to a public health hazard. The advisory recommended delaying social media use until the age of 14, echoing concerns about the addictive and overwhelming nature of online platforms.

Notable figures in the administration, including Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds Radix, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, and NYC Health + Hospitals President Dr. Michell Katz, expressed their commitment to protecting young people from the negative effects of social media.

In response to the lawsuit, New York Attorney General Letitia James praised Mayor Adams for taking significant action to tackle the damaging effects of social media on youth. The lawsuit aligns with the ongoing efforts of the Adams administration to address the youth mental health crisis, including the launch of TeenSpace, a tele-mental health service.