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Seattle School District Files Moral Panic Lawsuit Against Social Media

SEATTLE—On Friday, the Seattle School District filed a novel federal lawsuit against YouTube, Facebook, Snap, Instagram and TikTok and their parent companies, attempting to place the blame on them for the youth mental health crisis among its students, seeking various remedies, including massive financial penalties.

Rising rates of mental illness in American youth is an incredibly serious matter. But instead of trying to address the root causes of the problem, the Seattle School District’s complaint wrongly points fingers at American businesses in a manner which will not ultimately benefit Seattle’s youth. 

The District’s complaint cites the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2021 youth mental health advisory. But it leaves out that the advisory pointed to “the pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities” as likely reasons why today’s youth may be struggling.

“It’s clear from the complaint that this suit is about finding a scapegoat for our problems instead of schools trying to teach kids how to better operate online,” said NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo. “Social media provided an outlet for our kids to connect with their friends when Seattle schools closed during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

“Blaming new products or technologies for our problems provides us with someone to be angry at when we are fearful of the future. But discrepancies in past moral panics – over video games and even teddy bears – should serve as a reminder that finger-pointing at new technology does not mean it is responsible for the underlying issue at hand. 

“This lawsuit is not a real discussion on how best to serve our teens on the internet,” Szabo continued. “Instead of playing the blame game, Seattle Public Schools should create a program about healthy tech use and look into the impact of pandemic measures which isolated young people from learning and their friends.”

With press inquiries, please contact Krista Chavez at