D65 board members Mya Wilkinis and Joey Hailpern discussing social media lawsuit.

Think of it as an effort to send companies like Meta (Facebook), TikTok, and others a legal kick in the wallet, and also to get them to change what kids can see.

On Wednesday afternoon, the District 65 Personnel, Buildings & Grounds and Finance Committee recommended 3-0 that the full school board join more than 300 other districts in 11 states, and sue the major social media platforms.

The district’s chief financial officer, Raphael Obafemi, told the committee that the lawsuit has the “intent to get social media companies to take note and get them to stop feeding stuff to our kids that is harmful.”

Obafemi said, “We know social media companies are targeting our kids with algorithms” directing them to potentially dangerous content.

“There have been studies,” Obafemi noted, “showing adverse impacts” from such content.

The resolution joining the suit says that content has been “leading to significant risks of anxiety depression, thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation among students.”

Committee chair Joey Hailpern called the lawsuit “a worthwhile venture.”

Personal data from District 65 students will not be shared as part of the litigation.

Also, there is no cost to the school system to participate. The California law firm handling the lawsuit is taking the case on contingency and will be paid only if there case is won and financial damages are awarded.

Board member Mya Wilkins said, “If the case goes in our favor,” she hopes the district can use some of the money to guide and counsel young people on safe use of social media.

Class action or multiple party lawsuits have succeded in some cases against social media companies.

Meta, for example, agreed to pay $725 million to Facebook users over improper use of data.

And while it was not a social media firm, E-cigarette maker Juul has settled claims with 45 states for more than $1 billion, according to NBC News, for, as the network said, “unlawfully market[ing] its addictive products to minors….”

Juul did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlements.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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1 Comment

  1. The research is clear. Cell phone usage is destructive to a student’s (and adult’s) attention, memory and learning. I would hope District 65 is already restricting the use of cell phones in class and counseling students about their proper use in and out of school.

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