New York moves to ban ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

Goshen. The bill would stop platforms from showing suggested posts to people under the age of 18.

Goshen /
| 17 Jun 2024 | 04:55

The New York State Legislature on Friday passed a bill that would allow parents to block their kids from getting social media posts suggested by a platform’s algorithm — a regulation that tries to curtail feeds that critics argue are addicting to children.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law.

The move comes amid heightened concern about social media use among children and an ever-unfolding push to regulate tech platforms in different ways at the state and federal levels.

In practice, the bill (S7694A) would stop platforms from showing suggested posts to people under the age of 18, content the legislation describes as “addictive.” Instead, children would only get posts from accounts they follow. A minor could still get the suggested posts if he or she has what the bill defines as “verifiable parental consent.”

It would also block platforms from sending notifications about suggested posts to minors between midnight and 6 a.m. without parental consent.

The legislation tasks Attorney General Letitia James, who pushed for the bill, with coming up with rules to determine both the age of the user and a mechanism to determine parental consent. The bill would take effect 180 days after James establishes those guidelines.

“Our children are enduring a mental health crisis, and social media is fueling the fire and profiting from the epidemic,” James said.

As with any regulatory effort against social media companies, New York’s bill has drawn heavy pushback from the tech industry, which argues it unconstitutionally censors the sites. There has also been questions from critics over how age verification would work and whether that process would undermine the privacy of young users.

In a statement, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that includes X and Meta, called the legislation “an assault on free speech and the open internet by the state of New York.”

“NetChoice has defeated similar unconstitutional bills in three other states, where the judges in each of those cases highlighted the serious First Amendment and privacy concerns with this type of legislation. Parents — not politicians — should be making the rules for their families,” he said.

Some platforms have chosen to add parental controls to their sites as regulatory pressure has mounted. Meta, the parent company of social media giants Instagram and Facebook, last year unveiled tools to allow parents to set time limits and monitor how much time their kid spends on Instagram, among other things.

Other states have moved to regulate social media use among children, with varying results. Utah overhauled its social media youth restrictions earlier this year after they were challenged in court. In Arkansas, a federal judge has blocked a policy to requiring parental consent for minors to create a social media account.

At the federal level, lawmakers have held multiple congressional hearings about child safety on social media, but they have not passed broad legislation on the subject.

The New York State Assembly gave the bill final passage on Friday. The State Senate passed it Thursday.