In the last five to ten years or so, we have seen the creation and rise of social media influencers on the World Wide Web. These people sell products, tell their stories, and create content for viewers of all ages. Social media influencers are prominent across all platforms, but tend to be the most prevalent on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube.
Most social media sites have terms and use agreements with age restrictions for creating an account. On most social media sites, the age of consent to make an account is around 13. For grown adult influencers making accounts for their families to share their journeys and stories, this is no big deal. However, for the babies, toddlers, and preteens that these parents’ film, it could be.
On some social media sites, such as TikTok, content creators make a certain amount of profit for every person over a certain threshold that watches their videos. For example, a content creator could make .10 cents for every person who watches their video while scrolling after 100,000 people have already watched. Now, while 100,000 views seem like a lot, that number is nothing when you consider that popular TikTok videos get over one million views in less than a day.
With this in mind, if a family is making a video about raising their newborn, the person with the account, namely the parent, would rack in the cash. But what about the baby who is in the video more than half the time? What if that video is sponsoring a product and paying the family? Is there any recourse for the child financially? Are they being given their fair share of the profits? The answer: not really and it’s complicated.
Although this may seem like a fairly niche issue, it’s now causing quite a stir on capitol hill. Seattle high school senior Chris McCarty was the first person to actually raise awareness for children in situations like these. He stated, “People are starting to talk more and more about privacy, but they haven’t talked about for profit family blogs yet.” McCarty is spearheading a campaign to educate the masses about this issue on social media and is now calling for a change to our current legislature. The best part? The message is not falling on deaf ears.
Washington lawmakers have heard what McCarty has to say and are now doing something about it through the introduction of House Bill 2032, which states, “some children are filmed, with highly personal details of their lives shared on the internet for compensation, from birth. In addition to severe loss of privacy, these children receive no consideration for the use and exchange of their personal rights.” This bill is currently being sponsored by Representative Emily Wicks, a democratic lawmaker from Everett.
HB 2032, the first bill created to tackle this problem, aims to target video content and vlogs that generate a profit of at least 10 cents per view and feature a minor child in at least 30% of the video. If and when these two requirements are satisfied, a percentage of the channel’s earnings are set aside in a trust to be handed over to the minor when they turn 18 AND once the child is 18, the individual could request that the site and/or company remove all content of them that was recorded prior to reaching the age of consent on all platforms it was shared on.
Many scholars and lawmakers alike are now chiming in on the issue. Katharina Kopp, director of Policy for the National Center for Digital Democracy stated that videos like these are problematic for the children. She further stated that, “this is a form of child labor and child exploitation, of course all condoned by consenting adults. The digital platforms like Facebook and Google/Youtube are enabling these practices as they operate without any regard to the welfare of the child and minors generally, not just here.”
Given the prevalence of social media in most all of our lives, it is not unlikely that we will begin to see the issue of children being included/featured in social media posts coming up in more and more Santa Clara County divorce and custody cases.
At Argyris Mah, LLP we are experienced in custody matters and can answer any questions you may have in this regard. Contact us at (408) 564-5674 to schedule a free 20 minute telephone consultation.