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Four Ontario school boards suing Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta for $4.5 billion

Four Ontario school boards, including three in the Greater Toronto Area, have launched lawsuits seeking $4.5 billion in damages against Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta, the owner of both Facebook and Instagram, for creating products that they allege negligently interfere with student learning and have caused “widespread disruption to the education system.”

Four separate but similar statements of claim were filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice on Wednesday by the Toronto District School Board, the Peel District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.

The suits allege that the social media giants have “knowingly and/or negligently disrupted and fundamentally changed the school, learning, and teaching climate,” causing boards to suffer “substantial damages.”

According to the school boards, the damages include “a significant diversion and drain” on resources and personnel.

“The Defendants chose to maximize profits at the expense of student well-being and without due regard to the foreseeable harm and damage caused,” the statement of claims read.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. CP24 has reached out to the companies for comment.

“The influence of social media on today’s youth at school cannot be denied. It leads to pervasive problems such as distraction, social withdrawal, cyberbullying, a rapid escalation of aggression, and mental health challenges,” Colleen Russell-Rawlins, the director of education with the Toronto District School Board, said in a news release issued Thursday.

“It is imperative that we take steps to ensure the well-being of our youth. We are calling for measures to be implemented to mitigate these harms and prioritize the mental health and academic success of our future generation.”

The school boards are represented by Toronto-based law firm Neinstein LLP and the news release states that school boards “will not be responsible for any costs related to the lawsuit unless a successful outcome is reached.”

These lawsuits come as hundreds of school districts in the United States file similar suits.

“A strong education system is the foundation of our society and our community. Social media products and the changes in behaviour, judgement and attention that they cause pose a threat to that system and to the student population our schools serve,” Duncan Embury, the head of litigation at Neinstein LLP, said in the new release.

“We are proud to support our schools and students in this litigation with the goal of holding social media giants accountable and creating meaningful change.” 

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