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California’s assault on the algorithm: New bill would force social media companies to switch off ‘addictive’ technology for children under 18

by Elijah
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New California bill will require social networks to show minors chronological content instead of algorithm-based feeds

Social media platforms face criticism for promoting algorithmic content to minors, but a new California bill aims to hold companies accountable.

SB 976, also called the ‘Protect Children from Social Media Addiction Act,’ will require social media companies to disable algorithms for children under 18 and instead serve them content of pages that already follow.

The default feed should show posts by pages that users follow in chronological order, but the bill says it can be changed back to show algorithmic content if the parent or user chooses.

California Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) authored the bill and said social media companies must stop prioritizing content aimed at addicting young users to the platforms.

New California bill will require social networks to show minors chronological content instead of algorithm-based feeds

“Profits are being made off of our children and at the expense of their well-being,” Skinner said, adding that the new law “is designed to prevent these very preventable harms.”

The proposed bill would establish safeguards that would give parents the right to remove algorithmic feeds from their children’s social media channels and prevent children from accessing the app during school hours or at night.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), who introduced the bill to strengthen privacy protections for minors, said children will benefit greatly from changing settings to show only who they follow instead of content based on algorithms.

“We know there are some kids who will change the default settings,” Wicks told the Los Angeles Times“but default settings are a very powerful tool.”

Last year, the US surgeon general released a troubling report report about the harmful effects that social media can have on a child’s mental health.

Although social media platforms require users to be at least 13 years old to create a channel, nearly 40 percent of children ages eight to 12 use social media, according to the report.

Minors who use social media for three or more hours a day are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems

Minors who use social media for three or more hours a day are twice as likely to suffer from mental health problems

It added that children aged 12 to 15 who used social media for more than three hours a day “faced twice the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

Lawmakers pushing the ‘Protect Children from Social Media Addiction Act’ cited the surgeon general’s report in expressing why it is so important to pass the bill.

They added that almost half of the teens surveyed in the report said social media made them feel worse about their body image, while some said they regularly viewed “hate-based” content.

“Unfortunately, social media companies show us time and time again that they are all too willing to ignore the harm and pain of our children; the mental and physical health challenges they face in order to make a profit.” Attorney General Rob Bonta said ABC7 News.

Bonta introduced the California Youth Protection from Social Media Addiction and Children’s Data Privacy Acts, which would limit the danger related to social media addiction.

‚ÄúSocial media companies have designed their platforms to make users addicted, especially our children. Countless studies show that once a young person is addicted to social media, he experiences higher rates of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem,” Skinner said, “We have waited long enough for social media companies to act.”

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