Ontario school boards sue social media giants

Are looking for $4.5 billion in damages from Meta Platforms Inc., Snap Inc. and ByteDance Ltd

Four major Ontario school boards are taking some of the largest social media companies to court over their products, alleging the way they’re designed has negatively rewired the way children think, behave and learn and disrupted the way schools operate.

The public district school boards of Toronto, Peel and Ottawa-Carleton, along with Toronto’s Catholic counterpart, are looking for about $4.5 billion in damages from Meta Platforms Inc., Snap Inc. and ByteDance Ltd., which operate the platforms Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok respectively, according to separate but similar statements of claim filed Wednesday.

Rachel Chernos Lin, the chair of the Toronto District School Board said these social media companies have knowingly created a product that is addictive and marketed to kids.

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The school boards, operating under a new coalition called Schools for Social Media Change, allege students are experiencing an “attention, learning, and mental health crisis” because of “prolific and compulsive use of social media products.”

They also allege the platforms also facilitate and promote cyberbullying, harassment, hate speech and misinformation, and have a part in escalating physical violence and conflicts in schools, according to the statements of claim.

Trying to respond to those problems has caused “massive strains” on the boards’ funds, including in additional mental health programming and staff, IT costs and administrative resources, the release says. The boards call on the social media giants to “remediate” the costs to the larger education system and redesign their products to keep students safe.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.

The lawsuit comes after a large civil suit (new window) against Meta Platforms Inc. was initiated in the U.S. last fall. Over 30 states accused Meta Platforms Inc. of harming young people’s mental health and contributing to the youth mental health crisis by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that cause children to be addicted to its platforms.

Neinstein LLP, a Toronto-based firm, is representing the school boards. The boards will not be responsible for any costs related to the suit unless a successful outcome is reached, the release says.

The allegations have yet to be proven in court, and there is no date yet for when they will be heard.


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