Written by Sasha Reva
Social media companies might be responsible for harming children who have become addicted to their products. The bill that already passed the state Assembly will allow parents to receive about $25,000 for moral damage to their children who are becoming addicted to social media.
Business groups have warned that if the bill passes, social media companies have to end operations for children in California rather than face the legal risk.
The proposal would only apply to social media companies that had at least $100 million in gross revenue, which involve companies like Facebook.
It will not apply to companies like Netflix or companies that provide text and email services.
Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham commented “The era of unfettered social experimentation on children is over and we will protect kids.” Monday’s vote will keep the bill alive this year. The bill is now moving forward to the state Senate, where it will have weeks of hearings and negotiations. Cunningham is the author of the bill.
There are only two ways for social media companies to escape liability. By April 1st, companies, that remove features deemed addictive to children, will not be responsible for damages. Companies that conduct regular audits to identify and remove features, will have immunity from lawsuits.
TechNet, a bipartisan technology network wrote in a letter that states “social media companies and online web services would have no choice but to cease operations for kids under 18 and would implement stringent age-verification in order to ensure that adolescents did not use their sites.” “There is no social media company let alone any business that could tolerate that legal risk.”
Assemblymember Ken Cooley, who is a Democrat, said as a lawyer he normally opposes bills that give more opportunities for lawsuits. But he said, “We have to do something”. Lawmakers must “change the dynamics of what is surrounding us, surrounding our kids.”