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Illinois becomes first US state to pass law protecting child influencers: Here’s what it means

Posted by Dina Zubi in News

10 months ago

The Illinois senate has taken new measures to protect child influencers, the first US state to ratify a law of this kind. From 1 July 2024, underage influencers in Illinois will be entitled to payment for appearing in videos on monetised social media platforms. If parents fail to put aside a percentage of the earnings, the child could sue. The new bill passed unanimously through the state senate in March and was signed into law on 11 August.

Illinois state senator and Democrat Dave Koehler, who initiated the new bill, said in a statement: “The rise of social media has given children new opportunities to earn a profit. Many parents have taken this opportunity to pocket the money, while making their children continue to work in these digital environments.” He pointed out that while US child actors are covered by the Child Labor Law, no such protection existed for influencers who are minors until now.

The Illinois law is part of a wider development internationally, where several countries are moving to safeguard children who make monetised content. In 2020, France passed a law giving child influencers the same protection as child actors or models. This includes protection of their income and a “right to be forgotten”, meaning the child could demand all social media content of them be deleted, even without their parents’ consent.

Additionally, a recent bill proposal in France wants to make it necessary for children under 16 to have state approval to work on social media platforms. The same bill proposed 90% of their earnings must be saved for the underage creator until they turn 18. Meanwhile, in Norway, political party Venstre made a proposed law amendment in January prohibiting children from being used in commercial social media content.

The legal framework around child influencers is also a hot topic elsewhere in the US. A bill has been proposed in Washington state, which would formalise the child’s right to the money they have earned, as well as the opportunity to have all content deleted, should they wish. The law would affect creators who feature their children in at least 30% of their paid content and whose content generates at least 10 cents per view.

CAP recognises need for UK equivalent

In the UK, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has acknowledged the need for legal protection for child influencers. In a statement from February 2023, CAP said: “CAP recognises that there are legitimate and serious concerns around the safeguarding of children working as influencers, their protection from financial exploitation and other harms.” The same statement noted it is not within CAP’s remit to “prohibit or impose standards on the employment of children as influencers”, but that the Department for Education is looking into legislative approaches to mitigate the current gap in protection.

The child influencer laws in Illinois and elsewhere are arguably long overdue, as family vloggers and child creators have been sharing content for more than a decade already. The new law will hopefully help ignite a global conversation around the safeguarding of child influencers. As pointed out by initiators of the ratified and proposed laws, child actors and models have legal protection in place for their earnings, wellbeing and safety – of course the same should apply to digital creators who are minors.

By Dina Zubi, CORQ news and features writer.