Sunday, June 16, 2024

Ottawa Catholic School Board joins massive suit against tech giants

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The Ottawa Catholic School Board has joined a list of Ontario school boards and schools that have launched a lawsuit against tech giants including Meta, Snapchat and TikTok for “negligently designing and marketing addictive products that disrupt our mandate to enhance student achievement and well-being.”

The boards have said the suit is seeking to compel social media companies “to make their products safer, compensate our board for the disruptions caused, and support our students’ fundamental right to education.”

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Thomas D’Amico, director of education for the Catholic board, said in a post on the board’s website Wednesday that “we are committed to teaching responsible and compassionate use of technology for good.

“However, we acknowledge that the behaviours of major social media companies are negatively impacting our students’ mental health and well-being, which contradicts our objective of promoting the use of technology for good.”

The Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) joins a growing coalition in a lawsuit. Started in March by four school boards, including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the group has so far added seven more boards, bringing the total to 11. Two individual schools are also part of the group.

The group calls itself ‘Schools for Social Media Change.’

The suit seeks at least $4.5 billion in total damages from Meta Platforms Inc. (parent of Facebook), Snap Inc. (Snapchat) and ByteDance Ltd.

“Though in its early stages, this litigation seeks to compel social media companies to make their products safer, compensate our board for the disruptions caused, and support our students’ fundamental right to education.”

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None of the claims have been tested in court.

A spokesperson for TikTok has said its team of “safety professionals” continually evaluate practices to support teens’ well-being, while Snapchat has said it is happy with the role it plays in helping friends stay connected as they face the challenges of adolescence.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said in a recent statement the company has developed more than 30 tools to support teens and their families, including tools that allow parents to decide when, and for how long, their teens use Instagram.

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

— With files from wire services

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