Vivek Murthy: US proposes warning labels like those for tobacco for social networks | Technology

The highest health authority in the United States, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, once again equates the harm of social networks with that of other legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol. Murthy proposes a warning label – similar to those shown on cigarette packages – on social platforms to warn of the damage it can cause to the mental health of minors. This framework does not suit the large technology companies behind these social platforms that consume the time of the youngest, since they face numerous judicial processes in which the companies are incriminated as was once done with the tobacco companies: They caused harm to the consumer without warning and knowing that their product was harmful.

Yesterday Murthy published a forum in the newspaper The New York Times in which he outlined the next step his department should take to protect minors: “The time has come to demand a warning from the surgeon general on social media platforms, indicating that their use is associated with significant harm to mental health.” of adolescents.” As he explains in his article, studies on tobacco show that such warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior. “When asked if a warning from the surgeon general would prompt them to limit or monitor their children’s use of social media, 76% of Latino parents said yes,” Murthy argues.

While acknowledging that a warning label, “alone, would not make social media safe for young people,” Murthy notes that he would at least “periodically remind parents and teens that social media has not been proven to be safe.” . This labeling, recalls the surgeon general, requires that Congress develop regulations that, in addition, “should protect young people from harassment, abuse and exploitation online and from exposure to extreme violence and sexual content that too often occurs.” frequently appears in algorithm-based transmissions.” Additionally, they should prevent platforms from collecting sensitive data from minors and restrict push notifications, autoplay and “infinite scrollwhich take advantage of the developing brain and contribute to overuse.”

The surgeon general also demands greater efforts from companies: “Companies should be required to share all their data on health effects with independent scientists and the public (they currently do not do so) and allow independent safety audits. While the platforms claim they are making their products safer, Americans need more than words. “We need proof.”

The controversy over the toxicity of social networks has grown in recent months around the world, but especially in the United States, where the academic debate is more heated than ever and political authorities are already making firm decisions against the companies. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has already been sued by prosecutors in more than forty states for “trapping” children on their platforms. Two months ago, New York City sued Google’s TikTok, Meta, Snap and YouTube “for fueling the national youth mental health crisis.”

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