California lawmakers killed a bill Thursday that would have allowed government lawyers to sue social-media companies for features that allegedly harm children by causing them to become addicted, The Wall Street Journal reported.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the measure would have given the attorney general, local district attorneys and city attorneys in the biggest California cities authority to try to hold social-media companies liable in court for features that knew or should have known could addict minors. Among those targeted could have been Facebook and Instagram parent Meta Platforms, Inc., Snapchat parent Snap Inc., and TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance Ltd.
In June of 2022, Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) was facing eight lawsuits filed in courthouses across the US that allege that excessive exposure to platforms including Facebook and Instagram has led to attempted or actual suicides, eating disorders and sleeplessness, among other issues. More specifically, the lawsuits claim that the company built algorithms into its platforms that lure young people into destructive behavior.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that the bill died in the appropriations committee of the California state senate through a process known as the suspense file, in which lawmakers can halt the progress of dozens or even hundreds of potentially controversial bills without a public vote, based on their possible fiscal impact.
The death of the bill comes after social media companies worked aggressively to stop the bill, arguing that it would lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability and potentially prompt them to abandon the youth market nationwide. Meta, Twitter Inc., and Snap all had individually lobbied against the measure according to state lobbying disclosures.
This doesn’t mean that a similar bill cannot be passed by the federal government. Politico reported earlier this month that the Commerce Committee advanced the floor considerations for two bills: It approved the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act on a voice vote and the Kids Online Safety Act by a unanimous 28-0.
According to Politico, The Kids Online Safety Act was co-sponsored by Richard Blumenthal (Democrat – Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (Republican – Tennessee). That bill, if passed, would require social media platforms to allow kids and their parents to opt out of content algorithms that have fed them harmful content and disable addictive product features.
The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act was sponsored by Bill Cassidy (Republican – Louisiana) and Ed Markey (Democrat – Massachusetts). That bill, if passed, would extend existing privacy protections for preteens to children up to age 16 and bans ads from targeting them. It would also give kids and their parents the right to delete information that online platforms have about them.
Personally, I think that parents of children and teenagers who have allowed their kids to use social media should have complete control over preventing the social media companies from gathering data on their children. Huge social media companies need to find other ways of sustaining revenue that doesn’t involved mining underage people in the hopes of gaining money from ads.