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Morning Spew

Smash That Like Button, Mayor Adams Is Suing Social Media Companies

And more links to keep you glued to your phone this Thursday.

(Ed Reed / Mayoral Photography Office)

It's easy to buy the argument that because social media can have a profound negative impact on children and teenagers' mental health, social media companies have an obligation to make their platforms as safe for young people as possible. But whose job is it to actually enforce that obligation? Apparently, Mayor Eric Adams would like to toss his administration's hat in the ring. On Wednesday, the City of New York, along with the New York City Department of Education and NYC Health + Hospitals, joined hundreds of school districts across the U.S. in a lawsuit against the parent companies of five social media platforms which his administration deems especially harmful to youth mental health: TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube. (Can only imagine the sighs of relief from Discord and Twitch.) 

"Our city is built on innovation and technology, but many social media platforms end up endangering our children's mental health, promoting addiction, and encouraging unsafe behavior," the mayor said during an announcement about the lawsuit, citing subway surfing as a specific example of dangerous behavior pushed on teens by the internet. "This lawsuit and action plan are part of a larger reckoning that will shape the lives of our young people, our city, and our society for years to come," he continued.

Will it, though? The larger action plan in question contains some pretty basic solutions like training parents or adults who work with children and teenagers on how to talk to them about being healthy online, which is like, duh, and contains some nebulous gestures about doing more research into the way social media impacts the city's young people, which feels superfluous if we're already sold on the idea that the overall impact is negative. 

The mayor's grasp on how social media is bad for young people feels akin to his grasp on the way drugs, guns, and gang affiliation are bad for young people. No shit, Sherlock. The action plan cites statistics saying NYC high schoolers reported higher rates of depression in 2021 than ten years earlier—then goes on to say that although "a lot has happened over the last decade that could contribute to worsening youth mental health problems, but we cannot ignore the rise of social media as a likely contributor." So, is telling parents to set a time limit on how long their kid scroll TikTok on a school night—or to check behind a picture frame for bulletsreally good advice, or is it just conservative paranoia and an overinflated sense that you have special knowledge of the world's dangers masquerading as paternal wisdom and strong leadership?

It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad, to see the City pouring resources into coming up with recommendations for adults to help kids get off their phones, instead of into things that would actually be a compelling alternative to social media time for bored kids and teens. Say, robust afterschool programming, libraries, parks, and beaches? Oh, sorry—the Adams administration's austerity budgets have already pulled funding from those. Fingers crossed, though, that some of the money not going into programs to help young New Yorkers socialize in real life went towards this amazing graphic, which captures exactly how well the mayor understands what's ailing our youth:

Some links to keep you online (heh heh):

  • Get teens off their phones and into the Atlantic Terminal Mall!
  • Sooooo frustrating: According to its CEO, the Messenger was only $20 million away from making it work :-( 
  • OK, but if George Soros's heir was older than Huma Abedin, this wouldn't even be a discussion.
  • The New York Post is sad this abandoned building in Harlem is going to be turned into a homeless shelter (maybe even for migrants!) instead of something useful, like luxury condos.
  • NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban is in Dubai—his second trip to the Middle East since October, and his fourth overseas since he became commissioner in July 2023. 
  • Please watch this video of two bald guys punching each other in the middle of traffic over a road rage incident in Wallkill. 
  • REBNY is pushing housing policy that would help solve the housing crisis—by undermining rent stabilization reform.
  • Nice one, drivers: The MTA has halted new construction projects thanks to ongoing lawsuits over congestion pricing.
  • State redistricting is looking like it could be pretty mild.
  • And finally, thank you so much to the City staffer who leaked this email from the senior advisor of asylum seeker operations at the Office of Emergency Management saying she was "channeling Leslie Knope" on a busy morning of making people live in tents.
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