New York City's lawsuit alleges several social media platforms have...

New York City's lawsuit alleges several social media platforms have “created a youth mental health crisis,” Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday. Credit: AP

New York City is suing TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube, alleging that the social media platforms have “created a youth mental health crisis,” Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, cites research study findings that certain features engineered into the platforms — especially when used for hours a day — have a detriment on the psychological well-being of users, including addiction, compulsive use, body dissatisfaction, anxiety, depression and self-harming behaviors. 

Sylvia Hinds-Radix, the city’s corporation counsel, said the suit was filed in Los Angeles because New York City seeks to join similar lawsuits that are already pending in that area.

Toward the end of its 311 pages, the suit seeks a judicial finding that the platforms' conduct constitutes a public nuisance, an order forcing the platforms to stop the alleged conduct fueling the crisis, the payment of funds for preventive education and mental health treatment, damages, attorneys fees and more.

The causes of action are public nuisance, negligence and gross negligence.

The platforms took too few — or no — steps to make sure they were safe for adolescents, the suit alleges.

Among the features the suit says “exploit children and adolescents”: “an algorithmically-generated, endless feed to keep users scrolling in an induced ‘flow state’; ‘intermittent variable rewards’ that manipulate dopamine delivery to intensify use; ‘trophies’ to reward extreme usage; metrics and graphics to exploit social comparison; incessant notifications that encourage repetitive account checking by manufacturing insecurity; inadequate, essentially illusory age verification protocols; and deficient tools for parents that create the illusion of control.”

A statement issued by Julie Samuels, president and chief executive of Tech:NYC, a coalition of technology companies, criticized the lawsuit.

“Instead of making a good-faith effort to engage on real, immediate solutions, all Mayor Adams did today was create a distraction by joining an ongoing lawsuit with no end in sight. Working with tech companies on a collaborative and results-oriented path forward would truly make New York a nation-leading city, and joining this lawsuit equates to a missed opportunity for the Mayor,” according to the statement, issued by the coalition’s outside PR firm, Stu Loeser & Co.

At a news conference Wednesday announcing the suit, Adams said the city spends $100 million on youth mental health care. The crisis has increased rowdiness, fighting, vandalism and other misbehavior, according to the suit.

The suit was filed on the city's behalf by the law firm of Keller Rohrback LLP, which Hinds-Radix said took the case on a contingency basis.

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