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New York takes steps to limit ‘addictive’ social media content for children

Both provisions can be closed if the minor obtains

Both provisions can be closed if the minor obtains “verifiable parental consent” as defined in the bill (docs) | Photo Credit: AP

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill Thursday that Allows parents to block social media posts where children get suggestions from platform algorithmsCritics argue that feed restrictions can lead to addiction.

Under the legislation, feeds on apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited to posts by people under 18 from accounts they follow, rather than content suggested by automated algorithms. It would also prevent the platform from sending notifications about suggested posts to minors between midnight and 6 a.m.

Both provisions can be turned off if the minor obtains “verifiable parental consent” as defined in the bill.

The law does not take effect immediately. State Attorney General Letitia James is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying users’ age and parental consent. Once the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement them.

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“We can protect our children. We can tell companies, you’re not allowed to do this, you have no right to do this, and parents should have a say in their children’s lives and health, not you,” Hochul, a Democrat, said at a said at the meeting. The bill signing ceremony was held in Manhattan.

The signing is the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy rulemaking process that could see social media companies sue to block the law.

Tech industry trade group NetChoice, which includes X and Meta, criticized the legislation as unconstitutional.

“This is New York State’s attack on free speech and an open internet,” Carl Szabo, NetChoice vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to force websites to censor all content unless visitors Track the websites people visit and their online activities by providing identification to verify their age.”

Most of the largest social media platforms send users a steady stream of suggested videos, photos and other content, using computers to try to predict which content will keep users entertained and engaged for as long as possible. These algorithms curate content using a variety of factors, including what the user has previously clicked on and the interests of others with similar preferences.

The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced plans to work with the Legislature on a bill that would limit student use of smartphones during school hours, but he did not provide specific details on what the proposal would include. Newsom signed a bill in 2019 that allowed school districts to limit or ban smartphone use during school hours.

There has not yet been widespread legislation on the subject at the federal level, but it is a common thread in discussions in Washington. This week, the U.S. surgeon general called on Congress to put cigarette-like warning labels on social media platforms, citing mental health risks for children who use the sites.

Some technology companies have bowed to pressure and decided to implement parental controls on their platforms. Last year, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, created tools to let parents set time limits for their children on apps.

The New York legislation, first introduced last October, has faced significant pushback from the tech industry in the Legislature.

“Social media platforms manipulate the content our children see online to keep them on the platform as long as possible,” said James, the Democrat who pushed the bill. “The more time young people spend on social media, the greater their risk of developing serious mental health problems.”

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