Cunningham bill taking aim at social media addiction dies in Senate

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A bill co-authored by Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham that would have punished social media companies for creating platforms that addict children has died in the state Senate. 

Penned by Cunningham, a Republican, and Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), AB 2408 passed the Assembly and one Senate committee. On Thursday, a quick vote in the Senate killed the bill. 

Had it become law, AB 2408 would have imposed a duty on social media companies not to addict children. It would have also prohibited the sale of children’s personal data. 

The bill would have allowed the legal guardian of a child who suffers injury due to social media addiction to sue tech companies. Social media companies could have then faced face civil penalties of up to $250,000 per violation.

Social media companies that made less than $100 million in gross revenue over the past year would have been exempt from the requirement. Likewise, the bill would have exempted streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or Disney+, and companies that only offer messaging services or that primarily offer video games.

AB 2408 would have given social media companies until April 2023 to remove features addictive to users under the age of 18. Companies would have had to undergo regular audits if they chose not to comply.

Following Thursday’s Senate vote, Cunningham said he is extremely disappointed, and had it been up to them, voters likely would have supported the bill.

“The bill’s death means a handful of social media companies will be able to continue their experiment on millions of California kids, causing generational harm,” Cunningham said. “This idea would be overwhelmingly supported if presented directly to the voters, as it would be prohibitively expensive for social media companies to take every California voter on a Tech Caucus junket in Napa.”

Sharon Ireland, a social media consultant, said social media companies had so much to lose from the bill.

“They all agree that addiction is an important issue to tackle, but they also didn’t want to be chopped off at the knees because of it,” Ireland said. 

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