Bay Area/ Oakland/ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on January 29, 2024
California Targets Social Media's Hold on Youth with New Bills Proposed by AG Bonta and LawmakersSource: Google Street View

Oakland, California, is taking a hard swing at social media giants with proposed legislation aimed at safeguarding youngsters from digital addiction and privacy violations. In a move spearheaded by Attorney General Rob Bonta, Senator Nancy Skinner, and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, two bills, SB 976 and AB 1949, were introduced to crack down on the addictive and data-harvesting tactics of social media companies.

Attorney General Bonta took to the offensive, stating, "Social media companies have shown us time and time again that for profits, they are willing to harness addictive content to target a vulnerable population: our children," according to the California Attorney General's Office. Meanwhile, Skinner added, "We’ve waited long enough for the social media companies to act," as reported by her Senate page. Both bills are being touted as necessary measures to protect California's youth from the clutches of a relentlessly encroaching digital ecosystem.

SB 976, dubbed the "Protecting Youth from Social Media Addiction Act," will usher in significant changes if passed. Proposed initiatives include granting parents and guardians the option to prevent minors' access to a platform's algorithmic feeds, which are blamed for fostering addictive behaviors. This legislation also seeks to curb late-night and school-hour notifications and offer the power for parents to block platform access during these times.

Skinner's camp is especially vocal about the manipulation at play, with the Senator stating, "Social media companies have designed their platforms to addict users, especially our kids," in statements made public by her camp. On the privacy front, AB 1949 seeks to shore up data privacy rights for minors, with provisions to stop businesses from profiteering off the personal data of anyone under 18 unless explicit, informed consent is given. In cases involving users under 13, this consent must come from a parent or guardian. 

These legislative strides follow on the heels of legal challenges posed by Bonta and others to big tech outfits like Meta, alleging that the company knowingly employed algorithms that contributed to addiction and mental health issues. "SB 976 is needed now to establish sensible guardrails so parents can protect their kids from these preventable harms," Skinner explained, spotlighting the urgency of the matter. The duo of bills sends a clear message: California is ready to step up and draw the line against the exploitation of youth by powerful tech interests.