Are Social Media Companies Liable for Kids’ Addictions to their Platforms?

by | May 9, 2022 | Business Litigation

If California lawmakers have their way, social media companies may be held liable for children’s addictions to their platforms. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, legislators at both the local and federal levels want to curtail social media consumption in children. If the legislation comes to pass, entrepreneurs in the tech space may need to overcome steep compliance challenges before going to market with their software and services.

How is Social Media Addiction Defined?

While social media addiction is the target of the legislation, isolating a concrete definition that people agree upon universally is no simple feat. Addiction – as a general term – is a disease characterized by behaviors an individual continues engaging in “despite harmful consequences.”

Using that definition, we could characterize social media addiction by an individual’s use of these platforms despite the negative impact of bullying or the compulsion to engage in increasingly self-destructive behavior. From its inception, social media has reinforced unhealthy body image stereotypes and fostered scathing commentary. Still, within a legal context, a plaintiff’s attorney would encounter significant challenges in attempting to prove a specific social media platform is the direct cause of an individual’s addiction.

How Far Could this Legislation Reach?

While the primary targets for such legislation would be the major social media players, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, new social media apps are proliferating at lightning speed.

Entrepreneurs looking to develop a new apps to help meet a market should consider how younger audiences will engage with their platforms.

When Will this Legislation Become Policy?

The legislation is currently in the form of a bill, and the process of getting it passed and signed into law will be long and arduous. There is a strong chance it will fail. However, it is also important to note that the push to “rein in” social media is a hot topic right now. Eventually, tech companies specializing in social media may need to adjust their practices to reduce their risk of liability for addiction in children.