Statement from Assembly member Cristina Garcia (Author of AB 613, Body Image Act) on Facebook Whistleblower Hearings

For immediate release:

"Nearly eight months ago, I introduced Assembly Bill 613, The Body Image Act. The law had a simple premise–to prioritize the short-and-long-term mental health of young people by requiring that all social media platforms display a distinguishable tag on retouched images posted on their platform when used for promotional or commercial purposes.  

My legislation was motivated by behavioral research pointing to the mental health dangers that modified body images pose to young people. According to research by body image advocacy groups, 4% of adolescents and teens, ages 13 to 18, suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. * Additionally, the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine study maintained that body perceptions trigger suicide rates among teens from 9th to 12th grade. Those are unacceptable social realities for a progressive and moral society.  

During this year’s efforts to move the Body Image legislation forward, we made goodwill gestures to collaborate with social media advertisers. However, it was clear to my staff and me that social media companies, especially Facebook, prioritized profit before people.

To paraphrase some of the comments that came from social media lobbyists­– ‘great idea but too hard to implement, ‘that’s a federal, not a state issue,’ ‘that might not pass constitutional muster,’ and finally the worst of all ‘those are just a couple of studies, we need to learn a lot more before taking such a drastic step.  

Last week, I was appalled as I listened to the congressional testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Clearly, the practice of her former company was to put corporate profit over social responsibility. This practice was egregious and systemic. Not only did Facebook force its employees to chant the acclimation “Company before county!”–Ms. Haugen also revealed that Facebook’s inner decision-makers, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, knew that Facebook constructed their algorithm to serve altered body images to vulnerable young people. This is nothing short of profoundly immoral behavior.  

I encourage all my legislative colleagues to have the courage to use our law-making power to end social media’s irresponsible and reprehensible practices. I call on all social media platforms, including Facebook to rectify this wrongdoing against our society, by openly supporting The Body Image Act and working toward its passage.

Finally, I have a personal appeal and some advice for Mr. Zuckerberg. You have gained immense power. But with that power also comes tremendous social responsibility. It’s time for you to act righteously. So, rather than demanding that the mantra of your company appeal to individualism and greed demand that it appeals to the common good and modify your Facebook chant to, “Children and young people before anything!” That should and could be an amazing legacy. It’s up to you.”   

Additional quote:  

“The Facebook whistleblower testimony before Congress only serves as further proof that social media, like all other forms of media, needs to be regulated. The idea that social media corporations will self-police has proven to be as unrealistic as some of the body images posted on their platforms.  AB 613 would require companies like Facebook to address the serious problem that they know exists, which is that digital manipulation of body images is harming young people. We commend Assemblywoman Garcia for her leadership and commitment to protecting kids and families and urge the Legislature to pass The Body Image Act,” said James Steyer, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Common Sense Media.  

* (Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2010)

 

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The 58th Assembly District includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.