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Adams Administration filing a lawsuit to hold five social media platforms accountable for fueling the nationwide youth mental health crisis

The Social sites are TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube as the City issues action plan to address harms caused by social media

NEW YORK – New York City administration today announced the filing of a lawsuit to hold five social media platforms — TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube — accountable for fueling the nationwide youth mental health crisis.

The announcement was made by the Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds Radix, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan, NYC Health + Hospitals (NYC H+H) President Dr. Michell Katz, and New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David C. Banks.

The city is joining hundreds of school districts from across the country in filing litigation seeking to force tech giants to change their behavior and to recover the costs of addressing this public health threat. The city spends more than $100 million on youth mental health programs and services each year.

Today’s announcement builds on the Health Commissioner’s Advisory that DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan issued last month, identifying unfettered access to and use of social media as a public health hazard, just as past U.S. surgeons general have done with tobacco and firearms. The advisory provides recommendations to parents and caregivers, healthcare providers, educators, and policymakers on actions that can be taken to protect children, including the recommendation to delay social media use until the age of 14.

“Over the past decade, we have seen just how addictive and overwhelming the online world can be, exposing our children to a non-stop stream of harmful content and fueling our national youth mental health crisis,” said Mayor Adams.

“Our city is built on innovation and technology, but many social media platforms end up endangering our children’s mental health, promoting addiction, and encouraging unsafe behavior. Today, we’re taking bold action on behalf of millions of New Yorkers to hold these companies accountable for their role in this crisis, and we’re building on our work to address this public health hazard. This lawsuit and action plan are part of a larger reckoning that will shape the lives of our young people, our city, and our society for years to come.”

“Social media companies like TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, and Meta are fueling a national youth mental health crisis,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix.

These companies have chosen profit over the wellbeing of children by intentionally designing their platforms with manipulative and addictive features and using harmful algorithms targeted to young people. Social media companies should be held accountable for this misconduct and for the harms they cause to our children, schools, and entire communities.

“Online networks are powerful tools to connect with friends, family, classmates, and so much more,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “However, social media can also be a place for unhealthy comparisons to others, a platform for bullying, and lead to negative mental health implications for our children.

“This is about protecting our young people,” said City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. “The U.S. surgeon general was right to say this is ‘just not a fair fight.’

“Social media is a toxin in our digital environment, like lead, air pollution, and nicotine are in our physical one,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan.

“Environmental toxins require regulation, control, and mitigation, and public health must build on its environmental health legacy to address this modern threat. New York City is employing a wide array of tools to fight back, including education and awareness, research, and regulation, and this lawsuit is the latest example of our city’s commitment to ensure young people are safe from the impacts of social media on mental health and wellbeing.

“Social media has opened a window to the world for so many, however major social media companies have abused their power, resulting in serious consequences for the mental health of our students,” said DOE Chancellor Banks.

It is clear these companies have failed our young people, and I’m proud to be standing with my city agency partners to call for accountability, and for our nation’s policymakers to take action to protect our kids, Banks added.

“Social media has become a central part of many of our lives, especially among children and adolescents,” said NYC H+H Chief of Behavioral Health and Co-Deputy Chief Medical Officer Omar Fattal, MD, MPH.

“Social media can be used as a tool for information-sharing and building community. But, as a mental health clinician, I have also witnessed the profound negative impacts it continues to have on the mental health of many of our young people,” said Mayor’s Office of Community Mental Health Executive Director Eva Wong.

Today’s lawsuit — filed in California Superior Court by the City of New York, the DOE (the largest school district in the nation), and NYC H+H (the country’s largest public hospital system) — seeks to hold the companies operating TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube accountable for their role creating the youth mental health crisis in New York City.

“Our children are facing a mental health crisis fueled by social media companies’ disregard for their safety and wellbeing,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The Adams administration has taken repeated action to tackle the youth mental health crisis. Last year, Mayor Adams announced that the city launched TeenSpace, a free tele-mental health service available to all New York City teenagers, between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, that allows teenagers to connect with a licensed therapist through phone, video, and text. In the three months of operation, TeenSpace has served over 2,000 youth across the five boroughs.

In March 2023, the Adams administration launched “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City,” a mental health plan focused on improving the mental health of children and young people. Following the plan’s release, the city convened more than 150 advocates, researchers, technologists, mental health providers, community-based organizations, and caregivers in partnership with New York City youth to lay out potential pathways for action to protect the mental health of children and youth.

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