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Social Media Faces Lawsuits From Schools Over Mental Health Effects

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SEATTLE, Wash. – The big U.S. social media firms, like the cigarette, oil, gun, opioid, and vape businesses before them, are now facing lawsuits launched by public agencies seeking to hold them accountable for a massive societal problem – in this case, the mental health crisis among youngsters.

However, the new cases — one filed by a public school district in Seattle last week, another by a suburban district on Monday, and almost definitely more to follow — face an uncertain legal path.

Next month, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on how federal law protects the computer industry from such claims when social media algorithms push potentially dangerous information.

Even if the Supreme Court grants permission for lawsuits like Seattle’s, the district faces difficulty showing the industry’s liability.

And the tech industry says there are many ways in which the effects of social media on teens’ mental health are different from, say, how big pharma promotes opioid addiction.

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There Are Many Ways Social Media Effects Teens

“The fundamental premise is that the tech business is to blame for teens’ emotional state because they recommended content that has caused emotional injury,” vice president of tech industry trade organization NetChoice, said. “It would be ludicrous to sue Barnes & Noble because a staff member recommended a book that caused emotional harm or upset a youngster.” But that is precisely what this lawsuit does.”

Seattle Public Schools sued the digital titans behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat on Friday, arguing they had created a public nuisance by marketing to youngsters. The Kent School District in the Seattle suburbs followed suit on Monday.

The districts blame the companies for mental health and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying, making it making difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring more mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional teacher training.social media

Unprecidented Life Challenges

“Young people everywhere — face unprecedented learning and life challenges that are exacerbated by the negative effects of increased screen time, potentially addictive social media properties,” Seattle Superintendent Brent Jones said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “We hope this action will help reverse this trend for our students.”

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects online businesses from being held responsible for what other people post on their platforms. But the complaints say that the rule, which was made before there were any social media platforms, doesn’t protect the tech giants in this case because their algorithms favor harmful information.

This is also the issue in Gonzalez v. Google, YouTube’s parent firm, which the Supreme Court will hear on February 21. In another instance, the family of an American lady slain in an Islamic State group attack in Paris in 2015 claims that YouTube’s algorithms helped the terror group recruit.

If the Supreme Court rules that digital corporations can be held accountable in such cases, school districts will still have to prove that social media was to blame. Seattle’s lawsuit says that between 2009 and 2019, the number of students who said they felt “so unhappy or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row” that they stopped doing some of their usual activities rose by 30%.

However, Szabo noted that Seattle’s graduation rates have been rising since 2019 when many youngsters relied on social media to stay in touch with their pals during the pandemic. He said that the number of people who graduate from high school would be going up if social media were so bad for the district’s educational efforts.

“The complaint focuses solely on how social media damages children, and there may be evidence of that,” said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. “However, there is a lot of evidence that social media improves teenagers and other children. We don’t know what the distress rate would be like if social media didn’t exist. The distress rate might probably be higher rather than lower.”

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Company’s Care About The Safety Of Its Users

The companies have said that they care about the safety of their users, especially children. They have tools that make it easier for parents to know who their children are talking to. They have also made it easier for people to find mental health resources on social media, like the new 988 crisis hotline. They have also made it easier to check a user’s age and set limits on how much time they can spend on their devices.

“When teens join Instagram, we immediately switch their profiles to private, and we send reminders encouraging them to take regular breaks,” Meta’s global head of safety, said “We do not allow content that promotes suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders, and we identify over 99% of the content we remove or take action on before it is reported to us.”

Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, released internal studies in 2021 that showed the company knew Instagram was bad for kids because it hurt their body image and made eating disorders and suicidal thoughts worse. She claimed the platform put profits ahead of safety and concealed its research from investors and the general public.

Josh Golin, the executive director of Fairplay, an organization that protects children from commercialization and marketing, says that even if social media helps some students, it doesn’t make up for the huge harm it does to many others.

“The mental health expenses to students are astronomical, as is the amount of time schools have to spend monitoring and responding to social media drama,” Golin added. “It is ludicrous that schools are liable for the devastation created by these social media sites to young people. Nobody is witnessing the kinds of cumulative effects that social media is having on school districts.”

Both claims were filed in the United States District Court, but they are based on state public nuisance law – a wide, ill-defined legal notion with origins dating back to 13th century England. In Washington, a public nuisance is “any illegal act and every failure to do a duty” that “annoys, hurts, or threatens the safety, health, comfort, or rest of a large number of people.”

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Tabacco Industries Under Constant Fire

Most notably, public nuisance allegations aided the tobacco industry in reaching a $246 billion, 25-year settlement with the states in 1998. However, state, city, county, and tribal governments have used public nuisance legislation to hold oil firms accountable for climate change, the gun business for gun violence, the pharmaceutical sector for the opioid crisis, and vaping companies like Juul accountable for teen vaping.

The majority of the litigation is still continuing. Juul Labs agreed to resolve thousands of lawsuits, including 1,400 from school districts, towns, and counties, for an estimated $1.2 billion last month.

The Seattle lawsuit could lead to many changes, raising questions about whether it is right to solve big social problems in court instead of through laws. However, the school system faces little risk because the complaint was brought on a contingency basis, which means the company is only paid if the action is successful.

Jolina Cuaresma, senior counsel for privacy and technology policy at Common Sense Media, which works to make media safer for children, said she was pleased to see a school district file a public nuisance lawsuit against internet corporations.

“People have grown impatient of waiting for Congress to act,” she remarked.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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Sony To Lay Off 900 At PlayStation As Tough Times For The Video Games Industry Persist

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Sony said on Tuesday that it will lose 900 jobs, or 8% of PlayStation’s global workforce.

According to a PlayStation news statement, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s layoffs will affect all regions, with its in-house London studio, which is responsible for the competitive singing video game “Singstar,” closing entirely.

“These are incredibly talented people who have contributed to our success, and we are very grateful,” said Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment. “However, the industry has changed immensely, and we need to future ready ourselves to set the business up for what lies ahead.”

sony

Sony To Lay Off 900 At PlayStation As Tough Times For The Video Games Industry Persist

According to Bloomberg, the personnel cut comes after the business lowered its sales expectations for the year and Naomi Matsuouka, Sony’s senior vice president, stated that the PlayStation 5 console was nearing the end of its lifecycle.

Ryan stated in September that he would resign as president of Sony Group Corporation in March. Hiroki Totoki, the COO and CFO, will serve as interim CEO.

sony

Sony To Lay Off 900 At PlayStation As Tough Times For The Video Games Industry Persist

The incoming CEO will face an entire tech sector in turmoil, with industry giants laying off 5,500 staff in the first two weeks of 2024 alone.

Specifically, the video gaming industry has seen employment losses from 2023 into this year, with Epic Games slashing 830 workers last September and Tencent’s Riot Games laying off 11% of its workforce in January.

sony

Sony To Lay Off 900 At PlayStation As Tough Times For The Video Games Industry Persist

In his email to employees, Ryan echoed the leadership of those other game firms, saying, “We had to step back, look at our business holistically, and move forward focusing on the company’s long-term sustainability and delivering the best experiences possible for our community.”

Sony Group Corporation’s (SONY) stock declined less than 1% after the announcement on Tuesday.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Sideways Moon Landing Cuts Mission Short, Private US Lunar Lander Will Stop Working Tuesday

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida – A private US lunar lander’s mission was cut short after landing sideways near the moon’s south pole. It is likely to stop operational on Tuesday.

Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based firm that developed and flew the spacecraft, announced Monday that it will continue to collect data until the solar panels no longer receive sunlight. Officials estimate this to happen early Tuesday, based on the Earth’s and moon’s positions. That falls two to three days short of the week that NASA and other clients had anticipated.

The lander, dubbed Odysseus, is the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon in over 50 years, carrying experiments for NASA, the primary sponsor. However, it arrived too quickly last Thursday, and the foot of one of its six legs caught on the surface, forcing it to tip over, according to company authorities.

According to photographs taken by NASA’s lunar reconnaissance orbiter, Odysseus landed within a mile (1.5 kilometres) of its planned target at the Malapert A crater, roughly 185 miles (300 kilometres) from the moon’s south pole.

The LRO shots from 56 miles (90 km) above show the lander on the surface, but it is hardly visible in the blurry images. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s camera-ejecting experiment, which was supposed to record photographs of the lander as they both dropped, was called off shortly before touchdown due to a last-minute navigation difficulty.

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Sideways Moon Landing Cuts Mission Short, Private US Lunar Lander Will Stop Working Tuesday

According to NASA, the lander landed in a small, deteriorated crater with a 12-degree slope. That is the closest a spacecraft has ever gotten near the south pole, which is important due to probably frozen water in the permanently shadowed craters.

NASA, which intends to land astronauts in this region in the coming years, paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to bring six experiments to the surface. Other customers had things on board.

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Sideways Moon Landing Cuts Mission Short, Private US Lunar Lander Will Stop Working Tuesday

Instead of landing upright, the 14-foot (4.3-meter) Odysseus landed on its side, limiting its connection with Earth. The overturned lander covered up some antennas, and those that remained exposed ended up near the ground, resulting in intermittent communications. The solar panels were much closer to the surface than expected, which was less than optimal given the mountainous terrain. Even in the best circumstances, Odysseus only had a week to function on the surface before the long lunar night began.

Since the 1960s, only the United States, Russia, China, India, and Japan have successfully landed on the moon, with the United States being the only one with crews. Japan’s lander also ended up on the wrong side last month.

Despite its tilted landing, Intuitive Machines was the first private company to join the privileged group. Another American company, Astrobotic Technology, attempted it last month but could not reach the moon due to a fuel leak.

moon

Sideways Moon Landing Cuts Mission Short, Private US Lunar Lander Will Stop Working Tuesday

Intuitive Machines almost failed as well. Ground teams only activated the lander’s navigational lasers after its launch from Florida on February 15. The mistake was noticed when Odysseus circled the moon, forcing flight controllers to rely on a NASA laser-navigating gadget only on board as an experiment.

As it turned out, NASA’s test lasers guided Odysseus to a nearly perfect landing, marking the first moon landing by a U.S. spacecraft since the Apollo programme.

Twelve Apollo astronauts walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972. While NASA occasionally sent satellites around the moon, the United States launched another moon-landing mission this month. Astrobotic’s aborted voyage was the first in NASA’s programme to promote commercial lunar delivery.

Both Intuitive Machines and Astrobotics have NASA contracts for additional lunar landings.

SOURCE – (AP)

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AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

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Nvidia’s market value has reached $2 trillion (£1.58 trillion), marking a new milestone in the chipmaker’s meteoric rise to the ranks of the world’s most valuable corporations.

Shares of the Silicon Valley corporation gained more than 4% in opening trading on Friday before falling slightly.

The gains built on the company’s impressive earnings announcement earlier this week.

nvidia

AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

The company is profiting from improvements in artificial intelligence (AI), which has boosted demand for its processors.

The company’s turnover doubled last year to more than $60 billion, and CEO Jensen Huang told investors this week that demand was “surging” worldwide.

The corporation, which became worth $1 trillion less than a year ago, is now the world’s fourth most valuable publicly traded company, trailing Microsoft, Apple, and Saudi Aramco.

nvidia

AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

After shares fell from their early Friday highs, the company’s market capitalization ended the day just under $2 trillion.

Nvidia was founded in 1993 and was originally recognized for producing computer processors that processed images, primarily for computer games.

Long before the AI revolution, it began adding capabilities to its chips that it claims to aid in machine learning, which has helped it acquire market dominance.

It is currently regarded as a vital company to monitor how quickly AI-powered technology spreads throughout the commercial world.

The firm’s stock price has more than tripled the previous year, from less than $240 per share to about $800 in midday trading on Friday.

On Thursday, the day after its earnings release, purchasers snapped up shares, boosting its value by $277 billion, the greatest one-day rise in Wall Street history.

He research has also contributed to a larger market rise, appearing to persuade investors that, as Derren Nathan of Hargreaves Lansdown put it, the AI boom is “living up to the hype”.

nvidia

AI Chip Firm Nvidia Valued At $2tn

“It’s being used in automotive for design, in telecommunications for network planning, and in mainstream companies to figure out and get insights into data that they haven’t been able to get before,” Bob
O’Donnell, a technology analyst based in the United States, told the BBC earlier this week.

“This is now really starting to hit the kinds of companies across the board, not just specialized tech companies and that’s a real tipping point for the industry.”

SOURCE – (BBC)

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