Common Sense Media Sponsors California Bill to Hold Social Media Platforms Accountable for Harming Kids and Teens

Common Sense Media announced it will sponsor AB 3172, critical legislation to help families hold social media companies financially liable when they fail to exercise ordinary care toward children under the age of 18. The California bill stipulates specific monetary awards for online harms to minors that are proven in court.

The bill comes at a time when social media companies are facing intense scrutiny over the ways in which their design features and practices exacerbate America’s youth mental health crisis.

“We thank Assemblymember Lowenthal for introducing this vital bill to protect California children and families from serious online harms by hitting social media companies where it hurts: their wallets,” said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. “Social media platforms will not stop pushing addictive, harmful features to kids and teens until they are held liable in court. Lawmakers in Sacramento should overwhelmingly pass AB 3172 to defend children and put an end to business practices that have resulted in tragic consequences for young people and their families in California and across the country.”

“As the world has watched social media’s exponential growth, we have witnessed both the good and bad that these platforms can manifest,” said Assemblymember Josh Lowenthal (D-69th District). “Many states and most recently Congress are taking a much closer look at the negative impacts that social media has on its younger users. It is imperative that we hold social media companies accountable and that they be responsible partners.”

Under existing California negligence law, social media platforms are required to manage their services with ordinary care and skill, particularly in how they affect children, requiring them to be diligent in how they design, distribute, and market their features so as not to harm minors. AB 3172 would impose financial liabilities on large social media companies if it is proven in court that they knowingly offered products or design features that resulted in harm or injury to minors. The bill would amend California’s negligence law by establishing statutory damages of $5,000 for each instance of violation, with a cap of $1 million per child affected, when parents and other representatives prove in court that their children were harmed because of online practices. Two recent court rulings indicate that state judges are increasingly supportive of allowing plaintiffs to pursue claims against social media companies based on the state’s negligence law.