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The Wall Street Journal: California bill would hold tech companies liable for kids’ social-media addiction

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A pair of California lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to hold technology companies liable for social-media addictions that may affect children.

The bill would let parents and guardians sue platforms that they believe addicted children in their care through advertising, push notifications, advertising and design features that promote compulsive use, particularly the continual consumption of harmful content on issues such as eating disorders and suicide.

It would hold companies accountable regardless of whether they deliberately designed their products to be addictive.

The bill, called the Social Media Platform Duty to Children Act, was introduced Tuesday by State Assembly members Jordan Cunningham, a Republican, and Buffy Wicks, a Democrat. It arrives less than a month after Cunningham and Wicks put forward another bill, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which would force owners of web products to limit the collection of California children’s data, better protect them from other users, simplify convoluted privacy settings and agreements, and curtail addictive interfaces.

The bills were written to improve children’s experiences online from two different angles, according to Cunningham. Last month’s bill aims to guide companies’ practices, while the new bill is meant to push companies to “bear some of the social costs that they put on all of our children,” he said.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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