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Social Media Hearing Addresses Child Online Safety 

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A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child safety was held Wednesday, January 31, 2024. In a show of unanimity, democrats and republicans joined forces to address the growing concern for the dangers of online social media. CEOs of several major online platforms testified under oath to address their ongoing failure to protect young users on their websites, despite the obvious need for decisive and corrective action.

United States Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin, pointed out the staggering number of child sexual abuse material reported daily. In 2023, there were 100,000 reports per day of adolescent intended pornographic content, sexploitation, and financial extortion, all of which led to many child suicide cases. And yet, online content providers failed to act to protect their most vulnerable user base.

Republican Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, stated the issue clearly. The online sector is one of the wealthiest in the economy, yet it has neither the risk of liability nor regulatory oversight to hold practitioners accountable. In his profound comments to the corporate CEO’s he proclaimed “You have blood on your hands”.

Social media use has made children vulnerable to numerous dangers, such as exposure to sexual predators, cyberbullying, body dysmorphia, anti-social behavior, and even suicide. According to a whistleblower, online platforms were aware of the dangers yet continued to manipulate their algorithms to keep users engaged, hence increasing profits. For more detailed information on this, please visit our earlier blog post on the matter.

CaseyGerry partner and head of Mass Torts, Frederick Schenk, was appointed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Carolyn Kuhl, to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee in the Social Media Addiction Litigation Judicial Council Coordination Proceedings (JCCP), a consolidated lawsuit against several major social media platforms including Meta and TikTok. Read more about his appointment here.

Unfortunately, online companies have remained protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which the platforms claim shields them from liability for user-generated content.

 

What is Section 230? 

In 1996, a law protecting online companies was enacted, ostensibly granting them immunity from content provided by third parties. Section 230 states, “No provider or user of interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information provider.”

Social media platforms have sought to be shielded from liability since its enactment.

 

What is the 2022 proposal for the Kids Online Safety Act?

Democratic Senator, Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, and Republican Senator, Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, jointly proposed the “Kids Online Safety Act” in 2022.  According to congress.com, the bill proposed setting requirements for online platforms that are used by minors, including restricting access to their personal data, providing tools to help parents monitor minors’ use, and reporting potential harm to minors from the use of the platform.

 

Proposed bills

On January 29, 2024, California Senator Nancy Skinner introduced Senate Bill 976, which would restrict online platforms from making material deemed addictive to children without the expressed consent of their parent or guardian. The bill also proposes to make it illegal for social media platforms to send social media notifications to minors during the hours of school and overnight without express consent from their parent or guardian.

 

Active lawsuits against Social Media companies

According to consumernotice.org, there are over 480 lawsuits currently filed in the consolidated litigation against social media platforms for harm to young users mental and physical health, including a lawsuit filed in California against Meta by over 40 state Attorney Generals.

 

What are your legal options as a victim or the family of a victim who has suffered due to Social Media exploitative ways?

CaseyGerry has been dedicated to this cause for several years. We have stood up to behemoth online companies that were also protected from liability and successfully obtained an historic ruling against Amazon, winning for our client the justice she deserved. Read about the Amazon case here.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by social media addiction, we encourage you to learn more about how our social media addiction lawyers can help, or call our law office at (619) 238-1811.

 

RESOURCES FOR PARENTS:

Social Media Addiction Online Brochure