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Mesa Public Schools suing Facebook, TikTok over mental health concerns

One of Arizona's largest school districts has filed a legal complaint against the world's biggest social media companies.

MESA, Ariz. — The Mesa Public Schools Governing Board voted this week to file a legal complaint against the world's biggest social media companies, accusing the tech giants of ruining the mental health of its students. 

One of Arizona's largest school districts is following in the footsteps of districts in other states that have recently begun to file litigation against Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube. 

The legal complaint is intended to hold social media platforms accountable for allegedly contributing to the growing mental health crisis among the country's adolescents. 

"We know that this is a huge concern and as a public school district, we definitely want to ensure that our children's well-being and their mental state of mind is improving every day," said MPS Governing Board member Kiana Sears.

Tuesday's vote will allow the district's lawyer to work with outside counsel to file a multidistrict lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, Google, TikTok, and others. The 113-page lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court.

The complaint accuses the companies of being negligent by attempting to maximize the screen time of their young users. 

"Defendants have done so by building features and operating their platforms in a manner intended to exploit human psychology using complex algorithms driven by advanced artificial intelligence and machine-learning systems," the lawsuit states.

Joseph Tann, an Arizona attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of MPS, told district officials the complaint filed by the East Valley district would likely be the first of its kind in Arizona.

This case is not about shutting down social media platforms, Tann added, it's about getting them to reform their business practices.

>> VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: Escuelas públicas de Mesa planean demanda en contra de Facebook, TikTok por preocupación de salud mental

"These social media companies know what they're doing, I think they know it's wrong," Tann told the school board. "But they look the other way and they pocket billions of dollars while getting an entire generation of kids addicted to their products and platforms."

Seattle Public Schools was one of the first U.S. districts to file litigation against social media companies for allegedly getting young people addicted to their platforms. 

"Research tells us that excessive and problematic use of social media is harmful to the mental, behavioral, and emotional health of youth," Seattle Public Schools wrote in a statement after filing its lawsuit earlier this month.

Representatives for Google and SnapChat have recently said the companies have already taken steps to protect the young people who use their platforms, according to the Associated Press.

In 2021, a former data scientist for Facebook told Congress that the company's platforms allegedly harmed children and accused Facebook of putting profits over safety.

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