In reading some of the bills headed to Governor Newsom’s Desk after the conclusion of the 2022 Legislative Session, Assembly Bill 587 has two intriguing provisions.
AB 587 would add Chapter 22.8 (commencing with Section 22675 to Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code. Essentially, the bill would require a social media company, as defined, to post their terms of service for each social media platform, as defined, owned or operated by the company in a specified manner and with additional specified information, subject to certain exceptions.
In addition, the bill would state the intent of the Legislature that a social media company that violates the above provisions shall be subject to meaningful remedies sufficient to induce compliance with these provisions, and would specify civil penalties that a company shall be liable for if the bill’s provisions are violated, and how the Attorney General or a city attorney may bring an action against violators.
The first intriguing provision is found in Section 1 of the bill which, if AB 587 is signed into law, would create the following uncodified language:
SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature that a social media company that violates this act shall be subject to meaningful remedies sufficient to induce compliance with this act.
This is merely a statement of legislative intent, but it is stated as if it is codified. It uses the mandatory word “shall” as if it is imposing a duty upon the prosecutor. And, it uses an ambiguous term “meaningful remedies,” without defining this term. Moreover, the standard to be met is also without definition: “sufficient to induce compliance.”
The second intriguing provision is found in the proposed codified language contained in the bill, as follows:
22679. (b) The remedies or penalties provided by this chapter are cumulative to each other and to any other remedies or penalties available under local, state, or federal law.
This language is not unique, because similar language can be found in other codified sections of California’s 29 Codes. What makes it intriguing in this case is when it is read with Section 1 of the bill. Earlier in AB 587, there is a $15,000 penalty for violating the provisions of this new act. Based upon the above language, multiple financial penalties can be assessed against the social media company.
In addition, if there are other local, state, or federal penalties, those penalties can additionally be assessed against the social media company for the same violations. Moreover, a court could read the language in Section 1 of this new law and assess additional penalties so that a social media company may be “induced into compliance” with the act. This could potentially lead to excessive penalties being imposed against the company.
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