California could soon hold social media companies responsible for harming children who have become addicted to their products, permitting parents to sue platforms like Instagram and TikTok for up to $25,000 per violation under a bill that passed the state Assembly on Monday.
The bill defines “addiction” as kids under 18 who are both harmed — either physically, mentally, emotionally, developmentally or materially — and who want to stop or reduce how much time they spend on social media but they can’t because they are preoccupied or obsessed with it.
Business groups have warned that if the bill passes, social media companies would most likely cease 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 in the past year, appearing to take aim at social media giants like Facebook and others that dominate the marketplace.
It would not apply to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu or to companies that only offer email and text messaging services.
“The era of unfettered social experimentation on children is over and we will protect kids,” said Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, a Republican from San Luis Obispo County and author of the bill.
Monday’s vote is a key — but not final — step for the legislation. The bill now heads to the state Senate, where it will undergo weeks of hearings and negotiations among lawmakers and advocates. But Monday’s vote keeps the bill alive this year.
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