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New York City filed a lawsuit against social media giants Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok on Wednesday, accusing them of contributing to a "nationwide youth mental health crisis" by exposing children to harmful content and manipulating them into addictive behavior.

The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, alleges that these platforms intentionally design their algorithms and features to keep users engaged for longer periods, even if it comes at the expense of their mental well-being. It claims that this constant exposure to harmful content and the pressure to maintain a certain online persona is leading to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues among young people.

The New York City claims to have spent significant resources addressing these mental health issues and is seeking compensation for the costs incurred. They also want the platforms to implement stricter measures to protect children, such as limiting their exposure to harmful content and implementing stronger parental controls.

"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," the statement from New York City Mayor Eric Adams read.

Mayor Adams Calls for Action

New York City Mayor Eric Adams expressed concern about the impact of social media on children's mental health, stating, "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."

He called for innovation and technology to be used responsibly, emphasizing the need to protect children from online dangers.

Social Media Companies Deny Allegations

All four social media companies have responded to the lawsuit, denying the allegations and highlighting their efforts to promote safety and well-being for young users, CNBC reported.

SnapChat emphasized its focus on close friend communication and lack of traditional likes and comments, while TikTok pointed to its age-restricted features, parental controls, and time limits for underage users.

"Snapchat was intentionally designed to be different from traditional social media," says Snap.

"We regularly partner with experts to understand emerging best practices and will continue to work to keep our community safe by tackling industry-wide challenges," a TikTok spokesperson said, as per CNBC.

Meta, owner of Instagram, stressed its commitment to teen safety and offers 30 plus tools and features for support. Google, the owner of YouTube, stated its collaboration with experts to build services and policies for age-appropriate experiences and robust parental controls.

"Providing young people with a safer, healthier experience online has always been core to our work. In collaboration with youth, mental health, and parenting experts, we've built services and policies to give young people age-appropriate experiences and parents robust controls," Google asserted.

Lawsuit Raises Important Questions

The lawsuit raises critical questions about the role of social media platforms in shaping young minds and the potential harms associated with excessive use. While the companies defend their efforts to promote safety, the city's claims highlight the complex relationship between technology and mental health, particularly for vulnerable young users.