New York Pioneers Social Media Regulation to Safeguard Kids

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

New York Pioneers Social Media Regulation to Safeguard Kids

By Movieguide® Contributor

New York just made a landmark effort to protect kids from social media’s addictive features.

“Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law Thursday clamping down on digital platforms’ algorithms and use of children’s data,” CNN reported on June 20. “The unprecedented move makes New York the first state to pass a law regulating social media algorithms amid nationwide allegations that apps such as Instagram or TikTok have hooked users with addictive features.”

Movieguide® reported June 7:

“New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers are nearing a legislative deal on the proposal, according to a person familiar with the matter,” CNN reported June 4. “The bill would push platforms such as TikTok and Meta’s Instagram to rank content in chronological order by default for young users.”

If the proposal passes, algorithm-generated content would require parental consent. Parents would also have control over notifications and night-time use.

“As currently written, that bill would restrict websites from collecting or sharing the personal data of users under 18 without consent, expanding on existing federal privacy protections for children under 13,” CNN said.

The New York Child Data Protection Act also passed Thursday, which expands on federal privacy protection for kids under 13 and restricts sites from mining data on those under 18.

“The SAFE For Kids Act also requires platforms to limit late-night app notifications that state lawmakers say are engineered to drive user engagement and that risk hindering sleep. Both pieces of legislation were introduced last fall and cleared the state legislature in early June,” CNN said.

“Today, we save our children,” Govoner Hochel said Thursday. “We have heard their cries for help, reminding us as adults that we have a moral responsibility to protect young New Yorkers from harm and from addictive forces…We will save lives with this, my friends.”

Violators of the bill may face up to $5,000 in fines per violation.

Meta responded to the bills. The parent company of Instagram and Facebook doesn’t agree with “every aspect” of the laws and advocated for parental guards through app stores instead of its social media apps.

A spokesperson said, “We welcome New York becoming the first state to pass legislation recognizing the responsibility of app stores. According to research, the vast majority of parents support legislation requiring app stores to obtain parental approval to download apps, and we will continue to work with policymakers in New York and elsewhere to advance this approach.”

Several organizations have raised pushback on the bill under claims of First Amendment rights. However, Hochel says, “We’ve checked to make sure, we believe it’s constitutional.”

On Monday of last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced the addictive nature of social media should be displayed on warning labels on its platforms.

The New York Times reported last week, “He also called on tech companies to make changes: to share internal data on the health impact of their products; to allow independent safety audits; and restrict features like push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll, which he says ‘prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.’”

To mandate such labels would require congressional approval.

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