Texas school shooting puts spotlight on social media addiction, accountability

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Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has reignited the debate on social media accountability after it was reported the gunman posted plans on Facebook to harm his grandmother and attack the school.

A new bill passed in the California State Assembly this week aims to hold social media companies accountable for harm done to children. 

Republican State Rep. Jordan Cunningham, a dad of four who authored the bill, told “America’s Newsroom” Thursday the legislation would allow parents to sue companies for up to $25,000 in the event their children’s excessive use of a social media platform results in harm.

“It only applies, by the way, in the case of an addiction caused by social media that actually harms a child,” he clarified to co-host Julie Banderas. “We’re talking depression, suicide, eating disorders.”

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Cunningham said many media companies are intentionally using algorithms to get people — specifically children — addicted to their platforms in order to profit from advertising revenue. 

“We have a problem among our youth right now with social media addiction. We know it’s causing harm,” he said. “This bill, I believe, could be a preventative measure.”

Cunningham argued it’s “proveable” that the algorithms used by social media platforms can lead to lasting issues in children and said companies developing products for children are responsible for making sure they’re safe. 

Stephanie and Michael Chavez of San Antonio pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside Robb Elementary School, the site of a mass shooting, in Uvalde, Texas, U.S., May 25, 2022. REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona
(REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona)

“If harm is suffered by kids from your product, you’re liable,” he said. 

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While he wouldn’t speculate on social media’s role in the Texas shooting, Cunningham maintained the financial consequences in his bill could deter companies from profiting off child addiction.

“As to whether generally the companies should have more obligation to, say, notify law enforcement if somebody is posting something that’s very scary to their account, I’ll leave that for other people to address,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a terrible idea.”