In the latest episode of ‘Things can you sue someone for in the USA’, parents in the state of California could soon be able to sue social media companies like Instagram and TikTok for up to $36,700 (US$25,000) if their child becomes addicted to one of their platforms.
The bill, which aims to hold social media companies responsible for children who become addicted to social media, passed the State Assembly three weeks ago.
The AP reported that the bill defined ‘addiction’ in the context of “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”.
Interestingly, the bill only applies to social media platforms that generate at least $147 million (US$100 million) – which appears to target social media giants like Facebook and Instagram.
On the flip side, email or text messaging services like WhatsApp are exempt.
“The era of unfettered social experimentation on children is over and we will protect kids,” Republican assembly member Jordan Cunningham said of the bill he authored.
Naturally, business groups are staunchly opposing the bill, warning in an open letter that if it does pass, “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,” the group wrote.
The question is – if it passes, how will it impact businesses that increasingly rely on social media marketing to reach Gen Zs?
And importantly, how long would it take Australia to follow (law)suit?