Suing Big Tech: Families Take on Silicon Valley Giants Over Harmful Products
By Angus Crawford and Tony SmithBBC News
Families are taking on some of the world’s biggest technology companies, accusing them of knowingly exposing children to harmful products. One plaintiff, Taylor Little, shares their story of addiction to social media and why they are part of the lawsuit.
At age 12, Taylor was trapped by addiction to social media, leading to years of depression and suicide attempts. Now 21, Taylor describes the tech companies as “big, bad monsters” who knowingly put highly addictive and damaging products into children’s hands.
The lawsuit against Meta, TikTok, Google, and Snap Inc, is one of the largest ever mounted in Silicon Valley. The plaintiffs, including ordinary families and school districts, claim that the platforms are harmful by design.
The case of 14-year-old British schoolgirl Molly Russell, who saw large amounts of material around self-harm, suicide, and depression on social media, serves as an important example of the potential harms faced by teenagers.
Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of the families, stating that the companies could not use the First Amendment of the US constitution to block the action. The judge also ruled that a lack of “robust” age verification and poor parental controls are not issues of freedom of expression.
Taylor describes the addictive nature of social media, recalling the impact of viewing graphic material related to self-harm and body image issues at a young age.
Lawyers for the families have taken a novel approach to the litigation, focusing on the design of the platforms and not individual posts, comments, or images, claiming that the apps contain design features which cause addiction and harm.
Meta released a statement saying, “Our thoughts are with the families represented in these cases,” but denies the claims and intends to defend themselves robustly.