New York Passes Landmark Legislation to Protect Minors from Addictive Social Media Content

Rising Rates of Depression Among American Teens Is Social Media the Culprit

Key Points:

  • New York lawmakers passed bills to protect minors from addictive social media content and safeguard their data.
  • Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign both bills into law. Companies like Meta could see reduced revenue from advertising to minors.
  • Legislation aims to address links between excessive social media use and mental health issues in adolescents. NetChoice criticized the bills.
  • The SAFE for Kids Act requires parental consent for minors to view addictive content. Similar regulations have been adopted in several other states.

On Friday, New York state lawmakers approved groundbreaking legislation designed to shield minors from “addictive” algorithmic content on social media platforms without parental consent. This move makes New York the latest state to address online risks to children. The New York Assembly gave final legislative approval to this bill, alongside a companion bill restricting the collection and sale of personal data from underage users. Both measures had cleared the state Senate the previous day.

Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign both bills into law. She praised the legislation as a “historic step forward in our efforts to address the youth mental health crisis and create a safer digital environment for young people.”

The legislation could significantly impact social media companies like Meta Platforms, which operates Facebook and Instagram. According to a recent Harvard University study, the six largest social media platforms generated $11 billion in revenue from advertising to minors in 2022. The new restrictions could reduce this revenue stream.

Proponents of the legislation cite numerous studies linking excessive social media use among adolescents to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. They argue that restricting access to addictive content will help mitigate these issues.

NetChoice, an industry association, criticized the legislation, labeling it an “assault on free speech and the open internet.” The organization argued that the bills would force websites to censor content unless users provide age verification, which it claims is unconstitutional. NetChoice has successfully challenged similar measures in other states.

However, a spokesperson for Governor Hochul clarified that the law would not censor content. Instead, it allows for various age-verification methods that preserve user anonymity. While not fully agreeing with the bills, Meta expressed some support for the legislation, acknowledging New York’s recognition of app stores’ responsibility.

The SAFE (Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation) for Kids Act requires users under 18 to obtain parental consent to view addictive feeds. Such feeds are content from accounts they do not follow, delivered by algorithms intended to maximize user engagement.

Instead, minors will receive a chronological feed of content from accounts they already follow or generally popular content. Minors can still search for specific topics, connect with friends, and join online groups. Non-addictive algorithms used for search functions or filtering unwanted or obscene content remain permissible without parental consent.

The New York Child Data Protection Act, the companion bill, prohibits all online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data of anyone under 18 without “informed consent.” For users under 13, this consent must come from a parent. Violators could face civil damages or penalties of up to $5,000 per violation. In recent months, other states such as Utah, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas, and Florida have enacted similar regulations to protect children online.

TechGolly editorial team led by Al Mahmud Al Mamun. He worked as an Editor-in-Chief at a world-leading professional research Magazine. Rasel Hossain and Enamul Kabir are supporting as Managing Editor. Our team is intercorporate with technologists, researchers, and technology writers. We have substantial knowledge and background in Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Embedded Technology.

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