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Legal action against tech giants for impact on student education

Robert Besser
1 Apr 2024

TORONTO, Canada: On Thursday, the four largest school boards in the Canadian province of Ontario filed lawsuits against TikTok, Meta and SnapChat for disrupting students' learning.

The Toronto District School Board, the Peel District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board filed the lawsuits.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, are "designed for compulsive use, have rewired the way children think, behave, and learn," and teachers are dealing with the effects, the lawsuits said.

Snap owns SnapChat, ByteDance owns TikTok, and Meta Platforms owns Facebook and Instagram.

Teachers and parents are noticing social withdrawal, anxiety, attention problems, cyber bullying, and mental health issues, said Rachel Chernos, trustee for the Toronto District School Board.

"These companies have knowingly created programs that are addictive, that are aimed and marketed at young people, and it is causing significant harm, and we just cannot stand by any longer and not speak up about it," Chernos said.

California, New York, and several other US states are also suing Meta Platforms for contributing to a mental health crisis among young people.

The Canadian boards are seeking damages worth more than CAD$4 billion (US$2.9 billion) for disrupting students' learning and the education system.

In response, Tonya Johnson, spokeswoman for Snap, said Snapchat helps its users stay connected with their friends.

"Snapchat opens directly to a camera, rather than a feed of content, and has no traditional public likes or comments," she said.

However, Duncan Embury, a lawyer representing the boards, said there is a real addiction issue with the designed algorithms, so proper warnings are needed, and age parameters must change.

Companies have knowingly and negligently designed their products to maximize the amount of time young people spend on their platforms at the expense of their wellbeing and education, he added.

Unless the school districts win, no money will be paid to the attorneys handling the Canadian lawsuits.

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