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Social Media Complaint Filed by Seattle Public Schools

Summary: Seattle Public Schools files complaint against social media companies for creating a youth mental health crisis.

Complaint Filed Against Social Media Companies to Address Practices Harmful to Young People

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) took the first step towards holding social media companies accountable for the harm caused to students’ social, emotional, and mental health.  

On Jan. 6, the district filed a complaint against the companies operating TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and YouTube. Kent School District has since joined the complaint as well. 

The goal is not to eliminate social media, but to change how these companies operate and force them to take responsibility. We are asking these popular companies to maximize their efforts to safeguard students, who are their most vulnerable consumers. 

Young people across the nation are struggling with anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, and suicidal ideation. This mental health crisis impacts the SPS mission to educate students by draining resources from schools.  

For many of our schools, SPS and school-based clinics are a primary provider of student health services. We cannot ignore the mental health needs of our students.  

Keller Rohrback is representing SPS and will be paid attorneys’ fees only if there is a settlement in our favor. No funds are being spent out of the district’s budget. 

Learn more about this litigation.

Members of the news media: please contact our media relations team. Find contact information on the SPS Media Relations webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Seattle Public Schools making this complaint? 

Young people across the country are struggling with mental health concerns. We cannot ignore the mental health needs of our students and the role that social media companies play.  

This complaint is one strategy SPS is undertaking to help our students.  

By marketing to and targeting young people, the companies who own these social media platforms have created digital environments that can negatively affect the mental and emotional health of our students.  

We believe that the companies should be held responsible for their actions and the harm they are causing by contributing to the increasing costs that school districts now bear in response to the increasing mental and emotional health needs of students. 

Who is the complaint targeting? 

On Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, Seattle Public Schools filed a complaint against the companies operating TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and YouTube. You can read this complaint on the Keller Rohrback website.

What are the legal fees? 

The independent law firm representing SPS in this matter — Keller Rohrback Law Offices — is representing the district on a contingency basis as is common is this type of litigation. The firm would be paid through any monetary damages awarded through trial or settlement in the case, not out of the SPS budget. 

What have the social media companies done wrong? 

We are asking that these social media conglomerates greatly increase their responsibility to safeguard our students, who are their most vulnerable consumers. We must do all that we can to support their mental health. 

The reality is that our young people are under incredible strain, facing unprecedented, learning and life struggles that are amplified by the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media. We are confident and hopeful that this lawsuit is a significant step toward reversing this trend for our students. 

What is Seattle Public Schools seeking in this complaint? 

The district is seeking two forms of recovery:  

  1. to stop social media platforms’ intentional and harmful practices targeting youth;  
  2. to provide the additional resources needed to meet the increased mental health needs of SPS students due to the negative impacts of social media use.  

This case is not about eliminating social media, but it is about changing how social media companies operate. The objective is to force these companies to take responsibility for the harm caused by their business practices. 

Other organizations and individuals have filed complaints against social media companies. What makes this case different? 

School districts are at the front lines of the youth mental health crisis. This complaint will help SPS to address the drain on resources caused by responding to this crisis.  

At this time, we are not aware of any other litigation that seeks to recover on this basis, nor are we aware of any legislation that would provide this relief.