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Council for Responsible Social Media members stand with Seattle educators fighting to protect children from social media harms

A new lawsuit brought by Seattle’s public schools argues that popular social media platforms have created "a mental health crisis among America’s youth."

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Cory Combs

Director of Media Relations

In a new lawsuit, the Seattle Public School District is alleging that social media platforms intentionally designed products that are addictive and harmful to the mental health of Seattle children, creating a crisis that is having a tangible impact on the work of educators. The lawsuit argues that these harms — including anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying — are not unintentional consequences of social media, but rather the direct result of “choices [tech companies] made to design and operate their platforms in ways that exploit the psychology and neurophysiology of their users.”

The Seattle case builds on lawsuits filed by individuals and families across the country. The district is seeking “maximum statutory and civil penalties permitted by law, including actual and compensatory damages,” as a result of damages they believe stem from the social media platforms and their design choices.

Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media (CRSM) — a bipartisan group of more than 50 globally-prominent leaders formed in the fall of 2022 — is committed to advancing a safer, healthier, and more transparent social media environment, and members stands with Seattle educators in their efforts to hold social media platforms accountable.

“Amid hundreds of lawsuits against tech companies, Seattle’s school district has set a powerful precedent for future cases,” said CRSM Co-chair Kerry Healey, the former Republican lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. “An entire school district representing thousands of teachers, families, and children has come together because of a deep fear for children’s safety online. They won’t be the last. This lawsuit sends a clear message that we need bipartisan federal legislation to ensure children are protected online.”

Added Layla Zaidane, a CRSM member and president and CEO of the Millennial Action Project: “Children are now growing up in an entirely digital age, but Congress hasn’t taken meaningful action to protect children online since 1996 — when the internet was still in its infancy and before the first member of Gen Z was even born. That leadership void has disproportionately affected young people, and lawmakers must take action to counter the worrying mental health impacts of social media.”

The Seattle lawsuit references studies showing that teens who spend excessive time on screens are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, experience lack of sleep, or fall victim to cyber bullying. For Seattle educators, these challenges have made it more difficult to educate students and led to new financial burdens, including hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional training to teachers. The school district also cited documents leaked by Council for Responsible Social Media member and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealing that researchers at Meta found that their own product, Instagram, makes “body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

In a December 2022 poll commissioned by the Council for Responsible Social Media, 84% of Washington state residents said that social media has had a somewhat or very negative impact on children’s mental health, and 73% said social media had negatively impacted education in the state. These concerns cut across partisan lines.

Washingtonians are not alone. In a recent op-ed, President Biden called for Republicans and Democrats in Congress to come together to safeguard the mental and physical wellbeing of children and teens. “We must hold social media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit,” Biden wrote. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have echoed these concerns. Last month, Texas Republican State Rep. Jared Patterson stated that “social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues.”

As the documented harms and allegations against the tech platforms continue to mount, one thing is clear: social media platforms cannot be counted on to act in the best interest of American children, families, and communities. The CRSM — which includes a broad range of stakeholders, including former U.S. senators, Nobel Prize winners, academics, and military and religious leaders — is committed to advancing a safer, healthier, and more transparent social media environment, and members of the Council stand with Seattle educators in their efforts to hold social media platforms accountable.

Note: While recognizing that the legal theory under which the lawsuit is being filed is novel — and making no endorsement of this framework — members of the CRSM fully support the spirit and intent of the Seattle lawsuit.

Signed by the following Members of the Council for Responsible Social Media:

  • Dick Gephardt, Co-Chair — Fmr. Congressman (D-MO) and Majority Leader
  • Kerry Healey, Co-Chair — Former Lieutenant Governor (R) of Massachusetts
  • Danielle Allen — Professor at Harvard University and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
  • Joel Bervell — TikTok disinformation specialist
  • Kristin Bride — Social media reform advocate
  • John Bridgeland — Founder and Executive Chair, More Perfect, Former Director, White House Domestic Policy Council
  • Susan Coppedge — Fmr. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • Jiore Craig — Head of Digital Integrity at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue
  • Linda Douglass — Fmr. Head of Communications for Bloomberg, Senior Vice President at Atlantic Media, and Communications Director in the White House’s Office of Health Reform
  • Mary Anne Franks — Professor at the University of Miami School of Law; President and Legislative and Technology Policy Director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative
  • Dan Glickman — Fmr. Secretary of Agriculture and Congressman (D-KS)
  • Nancy Gibbs – Fmr. Editor of TIME and Director of the Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
  • Josh Golin — Executive Director of Fairplay
  • Porter Goss — Fmr. Director of the CIA and Congressman (R-FL)
  • Jonathan Haidt — Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business, social psychologist, and author
  • Chuck Hagel — Fmr. Secretary of Defense & U.S. Senator (R-NE)
  • Tristan Harris — President and Co-Founder of the Center for Humane Technology
  • Frances Haugen — Facebook whistleblower and tech expert
  • Steve Israel — Fmr. Congressman (D-NY), Director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University
  • Herb Lin — Senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at Stanford University
  • Nathaniel Lubin — Fmr. Director of the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House
  • Claire McCaskill — Fmr. U.S. Senator (D-MO)
  • Sean McGarvey — President of North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • Manu Meel — CEO of BridgeUSA
  • Bill Owens — Fmr. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Navy Admiral
  • Farah Pandith — Fmr. Member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, State Department Representative to Muslim Communities, and Director for Middle East regional initiatives for the National Security Council
  • Leon Panetta — Fmr. Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, and Congressman (D-CA)
  • Zamaan Qureshi — The Real Facebook Oversight Board
  • Maria Ressa — Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and CEO of Rappler
  • Reid Ribble — Fmr. Congressman (R-WI)
  • Denver Riggelman — Fmr. Congressman (R-VA) and Senior Staffer to the U.S House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol
  • Michael Rogers — Fmr. Director of the NSA and U.S. Navy Admiral
  • Vivian Schiller — Executive Director of Aspen Digital, fmr. President and CEO of NPR, Global Chair of News at Twitter, and General Manager of
  • Craig Spencer — Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center
  • Tommy Thompson — Fmr. Governor of Wisconsin (R), Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Interim President of the University of Wisconsin System
  • Nicole Tisdale — Fmr. Director of Domestic Policy for the National Security Council, White House
  • Danny Weiss — Chief Advocacy Officer at Common Sense Media
  • Tom Wheeler — Fmr. Chair of the Federal Communications Commission
  • Isabelle Frances Wright — Executive Director of Vote For Freedom, Fmr. Global Election Integrity Policy Lead at TikTok
  • Layla Zaidane — President and CEO of the Millennial Action Project

Learn more about the Council for Responsible Social Media.