TikTok, Snapchat respond as Ontario school boards sue social media giants

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 total 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.

“These social media companies … have knowingly created a product that is addictive and marketed to kids,” said Rachel Chernos Lin, the chair of the Toronto District School Board, on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Thursday.

“We need them to be held accountable and we need them to create safer products.”

WATCH | Social media giants ‘knowingly’ harming children, TDSB chair: 

Social media giants ‘knowingly’ harming children, TDSB chair says in wake of lawsuit

Four of Ontario’s largest school boards, including the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), have launched lawsuits against social media giants behind Meta, Snapchat and TikTok for allegedly causing harm to students. Metro Morning host David Common spoke with TDSB chair Rachel Chernos Lin about the action.

The allegations have yet to be proven in court, and there is no set date for when they will be heard. CBC Toronto has reached out to the companies named for comment.

The school boards, speaking 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,” in a news release.

They allege the platforms 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.

They also argue these apps are “purposefully designed” to deliver harmful content to students dealing with topics such as suicidal ideation, drugs, self-harm, alcohol, eating disorders, hate speech and sex — particularly content encouraging “non-consensual” sexual activity.

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.

Lawsuit may be first of its kind in Canada

Hundreds of school boards in the United States, along with some states, have launched similar lawsuits against social media companies.

Last fall, over 30 states accused Meta Platforms Inc. of harming young people’s mental health and contributing to the youth mental…

Read More: TikTok, Snapchat respond as Ontario school boards sue social media giants

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