As reported by Law360, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, has issued a crucial health alert emphasizing the harmful effects of social media on the well-being of America’s youth. The advisory, coming as it does from a new perspective, clearly classifies social media platforms as “products,” a stance that could significantly reshape the range of applicable law.
The Surgeon General’s views align directly with the central assertion in the multidistrict litigation led by Lieff Cabraser against tech heavyweights like Facebook and Instagram, which is that these platforms’ sophisticated algorithms and content delivery systems are and should legally be considered as products, thereby subjecting them fully to traditional product liability law. Originally filed in September 2022, the nationwide litigation accuses Instagram, Meta, and Facebook and other social platforms of predatorily capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of adolescents, leading to serious, even life-threatening harms.
Dr. Murthy’s alert identifies the range of serious health hazards stemming from social media use, including eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and suicide. Drawing parallels between social media and physical commodities such as toys and vehicles, the Surgeon General emphasizes the necessity for social media platforms to prioritize safety over profits – a principle crystallized in U.S. law.
While acknowledging a few potential positive effects of social media, such as fostering new friendships and promoting civic engagement, Murthy’s advisory champions the safety-first approach in the wake of ever-increasing evidence of manifest harm to children and adolescents from social media use.
Though not legally binding, the Surgeon General’s alert lends significant weight to the lawsuit’s premise, and echoes its goals of holding the tech industry accountable for social media’s inherent toxicity. The Surgeon General’s warning is thus an important new development in what is of necessity becoming a war waged in the courtroom against social media’s insidious harms to young people across America.
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