Social Platforms Want Appeals Court To Intervene In Battle Over Teen Addiction

Meta, Google, TikTok and Snapchat are asking U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers' to authorize an immediate appeal of her recent decision to allow teens to proceed with a sprawling lawsuit accusing the companies of harming minors' psychological health.

The companies say in papers filed Tuesday that they want to argue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that most claims in the case should be dismissed due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- which immunizes web services from lawsuits over material posted by users -- and the First Amendment.

“Courts repeatedly have held that Section 230 bars claims ... based on many of the same features of defendants’ services at issue here,” the companies say in papers filed Tuesday urging Rogers to authorize an immediate appeal.

The new papers come in a lawsuit brought by hundreds of teens and their families (and school districts and state attorneys general) who allege that tech platforms designing their services to be addictive, and then serving minors with potentially harmful material -- such as filtered photos that promote unrealistic aesthetic standards.



The complaint includes claims that the tech companies' products -- meaning Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other social media services -- were dangerously defective due to design features that made the services addictive (such as recommendations), and that the companies acted negligently.

The platforms have broadly countered that they're protected from liability because any injuries suffered by the teens were tied to content posted by other users.

Last month, Rogers ruled that Section 230 and the First Amendment barred some of the claims, but not all. For instance, she said Section 230 barred claims over the platforms' use of recommendation algorithms, but not from claims that they failed to label filtered photos or warn users about the risks of addiction.

Meta and the others now want to ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the bulk of the case.

The companies argue in their bid for a fast appeal that other judges have ruled that the First Amendment and Section 230 apply to the types of claims raised by the teens.

For instance, the platforms write, other judges have found that the First Amendment protects companies from accusations that they failed to warn people about dangers, when those dangers were connected to speech itself. The companies specifically noted that in 1989, a federal judge ruled that the manufacturer of Dungeons and Dragons need not face a lawsuit for failing to warn that the game was allegedly addictive and dangerous.

The companies also note that judges on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in 2019 that Section 230 protected the dating site Grindr from liability for allegedly designing its service in a way that facilitated harassment.

The tech platforms add that a fast ruling by the 9th Circuit could influence a similar lawsuit underway in California state court. In that case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl recently ruled that teens could move forward with a claim that the companies were negligent because they used features like continuous scrolling, aimed at maximizing the amount of time people spend on social media.

1 comment about "Social Platforms Want Appeals Court To Intervene In Battle Over Teen Addiction".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, December 14, 2023 at 8:14 p.m.

    I believe that it is on the parents to set the limits on social media and if they want their teens on the platform or not it just seems to be blame Twitter/X, FB, IG etc. The govenment going to have some rules for Big Tech but I don't see it working all that much in my opinion.

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