by Adam Beam | The Associated Press
Sacramento — California may soon hold social media companies responsible for harm to children who have become addicted to their products, the state said Monday for infringing parents on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Allows to sue under a bill passed in the assembly.
The bill defines “addicts” as children under the age of 18 who cause physical, mental, emotional, developmental or physical harm to both – and who want to stop or stop how much time they spend on social media. , but they can’t because they are busy or obsessed with it.
Business groups have warned that if the bill passes, social media companies will shut down operations for children in California rather than face legal risk.
The offer would only apply to social media companies that had at least $100 million in gross revenue over the past year, which appear to be targeting social media giants like Facebook and others that dominate the market. .
This will not apply to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, or to companies offering only email and text messaging services.
“The era of autocratic social experimentation on children is over and we will protect children,” said Assembly member Jordan Cunningham, a San Luis Obispo County Republican and the bill’s author.
Monday’s vote is an important – but not final – step for the legislation. The bill now goes to the state Senate, where it will go through several weeks of hearings and negotiations between lawmakers and advocates. But Monday’s vote keeps the bill alive this year.
The bill gives social media companies two avenues to avoid liability in the courts. If the bill becomes law, it will take effect from January 1. Companies that remove features that allow children to be addicted by April 1 will not be responsible for damages.
Also, companies that regularly audit their practices to identify and remove features that may be addictive to children will be immune to lawsuits.
Despite those provisions, business groups have opposed the bill. TechNet, a bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that if the bill becomes law, “social media companies and online web services will have no way of stopping operations for children under the age of 18.” There will be no choice but to apply and strict age-verification is done to ensure that teens don’t use their sites.”
“There is no social media company, let alone any business that can bear that legal risk,” the group wrote.
Lawmakers appeared ready to change that part of the bill that allows parents to sue social media companies, but none offered a detailed alternative. Instead, supporters urged their allies to continue negotiating the issue at the state capitol to pass the bill on Monday.
Ken Cooley, a Democrat from Rancho Cordova, said that as a lawyer he generally opposes bills that create more opportunities for lawsuits. But he said lawmakers should “change the dynamics around us, around our children.”
He said, ‘We have to do something. “If it doesn’t turn out right then we can revise as we move forward.”