Social media giants avoid allegations of dependence on school districts

(Bloomberg) — Meta Platforms Inc. and other social media companies won dismissal of new claims in hundreds of lawsuits filed by school districts seeking to recover costs related to combating the negative impacts of students’ use of social media.

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A California state judge on Friday sided with Meta, Snap Inc., TikTok Inc. and Google LLC in rejecting the districts’ claims that social media has increased the cost of education because they make students more distracted and disruptive, thereby increasing the need for classroom space. discipline, employee training and communication with parents.

These cases are among hundreds brought in state and federal courts alleging that social media platforms are designed to be addictive and are dangerous to young people.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl wrote that there must be limits to liability — otherwise any company could be held liable when the “emotional harm” it inflicts on individuals then causes them to ” taking action “.

“A restaurateur who negligently sold spoiled food to a restaurant would be liable to the person who was subsequently struck by the restaurant’s car, since the restaurant’s misconduct may be the result of suffering under the effects of food poisoning,” Kuhl said in his decision.

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The school districts alleged that the companies designed their platforms to attract young users using algorithms and features such as the “Like” button, in a way that harmed the company – a much like the cigarette companies who designed their products to be addictive. They also said they spent “significant resources” to deal with social media fallout, including protests posted on platforms that allegedly encouraged students to damage school property.

The social media companies countered that they could not be held responsible for content posted by third parties.

“We believe the court made the right decision in this ruling,” Meta said in a statement. “Meta is committed to supporting young people and their families, and we will continue to defend ourselves against any cases claiming otherwise.”

Representatives for Google, TikTok and Snap did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As of May 9, cases pending before Kuhl in a coordinated Judicial Council proceeding included 617 plaintiffs from school districts in 34 states, according to a court filing. Kuhl last month heard arguments from four school districts acting as test plaintiffs to present claims common to the broader litigation.

“The school district plaintiffs are disappointed in the court’s decision and are evaluating all appeal options,” according to a statement released by the districts’ lead attorneys. “Nonetheless, this decision impacts a limited number of school plaintiffs under the JCCP, and attorneys will continue to vigorously litigate claims on behalf of school districts with active cases in the…

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