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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

Shoeleather Journalism
in the Digital Age

Judge dismisses some claims against Meta’s Zuckerberg over social media harm

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Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2024. (REUTERS/Nathan Howard/File Photo)
By Nate Raymond | REUTERS

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday won the dismissal of some claims in a dozen lawsuits accusing him of concealing from the public that Facebook and Instagram were harmful to children.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, came in the sprawling litigation by children pursuing hundreds of lawsuits accusing Meta and other social media companies of addicting them to their platforms.

Twenty-five of those cases sought to hold Zuckerberg personally liable, saying Meta’s billionaire founder created a false impression about the platforms’ safety despite repeated warnings they were unfit for children.

The plaintiffs argued that his public stature and outsized role as the “trusted voice on all things Meta” created a duty under several states’ laws for Zuckerberg to speak fully and truthfully on the risks its products posed to children.

But Rogers said the plaintiffs could not rely on Zuckerberg’s comparative knowledge about Meta’s products to establish he personally owed such a duty to each plaintiff. Such a ruling, she said, would create “a duty to disclose for any individual recognizable to the public.”

“The court will not countenance such a novel approach here,” she said.

Meta, which remains a defendant, declined to comment. The company denies wrongdoing.

Hundreds of lawsuits are pending before Rogers filed on behalf of individual children against Meta and other social media companies, including Alphabet, which operates Google and YouTube; ByteDance, which operates TikTok; and Snap, which operates Snapchat.

The lawsuits say the children suffered physical, mental and emotional harm from social media use, including anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

The litigation seeks damages and a halt to the practices the defendants say are harmful. Several states and school districts have also filed lawsuits against Meta, which remain pending.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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