California Social Media Laws

Social media can have a profoundly damaging impact on young people. Several new and proposed California social media laws will better hold companies accountable for that harm. Because so many social media companies are based in California, shifts at the state level can shape the legal landscape for millions of users. Social Media Victims Law Center is committed to helping parents seek accountability and justice when social media has harmed their children.

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Matthew Bergman

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by

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Social media platforms have changed the landscape of human interaction over the past two decades. The dark side of social media has only more recently come to light. Mental health issues, cyberbullying, addiction, sexual violence, self-harm, and eating disorders are some of the many problems surfacing in youth who use social media heavily.

Not surprisingly, children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of social media. Their underdeveloped brains make them more vulnerable to harmful online influences. They are also more likely to fall prey to addictive social media algorithms.

The legal landscape is slowly shifting to recognize these harms. Several social media laws in California, both enacted and proposed, take aim at social media companies for failing to protect users–especially minors–from foreseeable harm. Numerous high-profile lawsuits have been filed against social media giant Meta over its Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp platforms. Suits are also pending against TikTok, Snapchat, Discord, and Roblox, among others, alleging harm to children.

At Social Media Victims Law Center, we aim to hold social media platforms accountable for the harm they cause minors. We represent parents and caregivers in taking legal action against social media giants.

Social Media’s Impact on California Youth

As a society, we are becoming more aware of the detrimental effects of social media on young people. California is at the forefront of that discussion because it is home to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Twitch, and numerous other platforms. From social media addiction to the rise of cyberbullying on social media, today’s youth are facing issues that no other generation has ever had to confront.

Research shows increasingly that social media use hurts the mental health of teenagers. It also negatively affects teens’ development of social skills.

 

Pursuing Justice and Compensation for Social Media Harm

If social media harmed your teen or child, contact Social Media Victims Law Center today for a free case evaluation. We can advise you on your options for pursuing a lawsuit and getting compensation for the harm your child has suffered.

Our goal is to put a stop to the harmful impact of social media. By holding social media companies accountable, we can pressure them to put stronger measures into place that prioritize children’s safety and health over their own profits.

Unpacking California Laws and Proposed Legislation That Impact Social Media

Legislative efforts at the federal and state levels are gaining momentum to hold social media companies accountable for harm to children and teens. Federal law currently prohibits social media platforms from allowing children under 13 to create accounts without parental consent. Through a “no parental consent” form, parents can proactively revoke consent for their children to use those platforms.

In California, several newly enacted laws and bills currently being considered would expand those protections. In addition, California’s existing cyberbullying laws can apply to social media. However, those laws are broader and more general in their scope. The new and proposed laws are targeted specifically toward social media harm.

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act (AB-2273)

This new law will require social media companies based in California to provide stronger online privacy measures for children. Specifically, it will require businesses offering online services and products that children are likely to access to do the following:

  • Configure their default privacy settings to offer the highest level of protection
  • Provide privacy information, terms of service, and other pertinent information in language appropriate to the age group likely to use it
  • Prepare a Data Protection Impact Assessment for new online offerings that children are likely to access

The law also creates a California Children’s Data Protection Working Group to provide additional guidance on children’s privacy rights in online spaces.

California lawmakers passed the law in 2022, and it will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

California's Social Media Transparency Law (AB587)

This recently enacted law requires social media companies to provide greater transparency regarding their content moderation and monitoring practices. They must disclose their process for addressing user-flagged content and the steps they take to remove inappropriate content.

They must also file semiannual reports with the California Attorney General’s Office. These reports must include the platform’s current terms of service and detailed data about flagged content.

Like AB-2273, this law was also passed in 2022 and will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Social Media Features Harmful to Children (SB287)

This recently introduced bill, if enacted, would specifically ban social media companies from using algorithms that expose children to harmful content. Its goal is to protect them from content that:

  • Promotes the purchase of controlled substances
  • Encourages them to inflict harm on themselves or others
  • Facilitates suicide
  • Causes eating disorders,
  • Causes social media addiction
  • Facilitates the illegal sale, purchase, or transfer of a firearm

Social Media Platforms: Minor Users (SB764)

Another proposed legislative update seeks to prohibit social media companies from prioritizing user engagement among minors over their safety, health, and well-being. The bill includes civil penalties for platforms that violate its provisions.

Mental Health: Impacts of Social Media (AB1282)

This proposed legislation would establish a Program for Researching the Impacts of Social Media on Mental Health. The commission would prepare annual public reports of its findings beginning July 1, 2025.

If the bill passes, the commission’s report will address the following:

  1. The degree to which individuals negatively impacted by social media are getting mental health services
  2. Recommendations to strengthen mental health services for youth affected by social media to reduce negative outcomes from mental illness

Let Parents Choose Protection Act of 2023 (SB845)

If passed, this bill would require social media companies to enable the use of third-party software by parents to monitor and manage their child’s social media use. It would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Hate Crimes Amendment (AB1064)

This amendment to California’s existing law seeks to clarify the definition of a hate crime as one motivated by a bias against people with certain characteristics. One iteration proposed that prosecutors could use a perpetrator’s social media posts as evidence of a bias.

State Employment: Social Media Platforms (AB227, SB74)

These two bills would prohibit the installation of TikTok and other social media platforms originating from “countries of concern” on state-owned devices. The bills seek to address the growing worldwide concern over cybersecurity threats posed by certain high-risk apps originating in adversarial nations.

The Assembly Bill specifically prohibits TikTok and any apps by its parent company, ByteDance Ltd. It lists six countries of concern.

The Senate Bill has a similar objective but would leave it up to the California Department of Technology to develop and maintain the list of countries of concern beginning January 1, 2024.

Designation of Social Media Platforms as Traditional First Amendment Forums (AB836)

This California Assembly bill would recognize social media platforms as public forums that are subject to the free speech protections of the First Amendment. It would also require social media companies to implement policies regulating unprotected speech, such as falsehoods, threats, and incitement to violence.

Controlled Substances on Social Media Platforms (SB60)

This proposed law would require social media companies to prohibit users from utilizing the platform to distribute controlled substances. It would also require social media companies to give users the ability to report content that violates that policy. Additionally, it would empower users to seek a court order requiring the platform to remove the offending content.

Learn More About These and Other Legal Protections

Social Media Victims Law Center is committed to educating and supporting parents as they navigate the risks of their children’s social media use. If your child has been a victim of social media harm, we can help. Please reach out to our legal team today for a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

For individuals and children who have been

We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.

Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.

We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.

Matthew Bergman
Content Reviewed by:

Matthew P. Bergman

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