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Social-Media Firms Would Have to Consider Children’s Health Under Bill Passed by California Legislature

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California’s legislature passed a bill Tuesday that would for the first time in the U.S. require the makers of social-media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to consider the physical and mental health of minors when designing their products.

The bill passed in a unanimous, bipartisan vote in the Assembly after doing the same in the state Senate on Monday. Both chambers are dominated by Democrats.

Gov.

Gavin Newsom

hasn’t indicated whether he will sign or veto the bill. A spokesman for the Democrat declined to comment.

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“California is home to the tech innovation space, and we welcome that,” state assemblymember Buffy Wicks, a Democrat and the bill’s primary author, said at a press conference urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill Tuesday morning. “But I also want to make sure our children are safe, and right now, they are not safe.”

Social-media companies opposed the bill, arguing that differing state laws regulating their apps would make compliance difficult.

Its passage comes after the failure of a separate measure that would have allowed government attorneys to sue social-media companies when their apps cause harm or addiction in their children. Representatives for companies including

Meta Platforms Inc.,


META -1.26%

Snap Inc.


SNAP -2.53%

and

Twitter Inc.


TWTR -1.80%

lobbied aggressively against that measure.

The bill that passed Tuesday would require social-media companies to study products and features deemed likely to be accessed by minors to assess and mitigate potential harm before releasing them publicly. Those assessments would have to be given to the state attorney general, if requested, though the contents wouldn’t be subject to public disclosure.

It would also require companies to disclose their privacy policies in language children can understand and prohibit profiling of minors and the use of tools that encourage children to share personal information.

In addition, it would prohibit companies from precise geolocation tracking unless the child is notified and would ban companies from using children’s personal information in ways that are deemed to be detrimental to their health.

Companies found to violate the rules could face injunctions on their products and be fined up to $2,500 per affected child for each violation and up to $7,500 per child if the violation was intentional.

If signed by Mr. Newsom, the bill’s provisions would go into effect in July 2024.

Write to Christine Mai-Duc at [email protected] and Meghan Bobrowsky at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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