In Arkansas, a new law requiring parental consent for minors creating new social media accounts was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Thursday, preventing the state from becoming the first to enforce the restriction a day before it took effect.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks has granted a preliminary injunction sought by NetChoice, a tech industry trade group comprised of TikTok, Meta, and X, formerly Twitter, against the Social Media Safety Act (SB396). Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the measure in April and it was to begin on Friday, September 1.
NetChoice argued that this requirement violates users’ constitutional rights, adding that certain types of speech would be restricted.
“We are pleased that the court sided with the First Amendment and stopped Arkansas’ unconstitutional law from censoring free speech online and infringing on the privacy of Arkansasians, their families and businesses as our case progresses,” Chris Marchese, director of the NetChoice Litigation Center. , said in a statement. “We hope to see the law repealed permanently.”
TECH GROUP SUES AK OVER NEW LAW THAT REQUIRES PARENTAL CONSENT FOR MINORS TO CREATE SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
The now-blocked law provided for a fine of $2,500 per violation for social media companies that knowingly violate the age verification requirement, and prohibits social media companies and third-party vendors from retaining personal information. identification of users after accessing the social media site.
The restrictions were only to be imposed on social media platforms generating more than $100 million in annual revenue. He also left out some platforms like LinkedIn, Google and YouTube.
In a 50-page ruling, Brooks questioned the effectiveness of the restrictions and said NetChoice would likely succeed in challenging the law’s constitutionality, according to The Associated Press.
“Age vetting of social media platforms for adults and minors does not appear to be an effective approach when in reality it is the content of certain platforms that is of real concern to the state,” Brooks wrote.
The ruling also said the exemptions negate the state’s reasoning for the restrictions and that the law did not adequately define the platforms to which the restrictions would apply.
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US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in May called on tech companies to take “immediate action to protect children now” after warning there was not enough evidence to prove social media was safe for children. children and teenagers.
Sanders said one of the reasons she lobbied for the legislation was the effect of social media on teen mental health — a topic that platforms have come under scrutiny for in recent years.
Alex Henning, a spokesman for Sanders, issued the following statement Thursday evening on behalf of the governor:
“Big tech companies are putting our children’s lives at risk. They’re delivering an addictive product that increases depression, loneliness and anxiety and puts our children in the crosshairs of human traffickers,” he said. she declared. “Today’s court decision delaying this needed protection is disappointing, but I am confident that the Attorney General will vigorously uphold the law and protect our children.”
Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin echoed Sanders’ sentiments and said in a statement that he was disappointed with Brooks’ decision, but “will continue to vigorously defend the law and protect our children, an important interest recognized in the ‘federal judge’s order today’.
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The Arkansas law is similar to a first-of-its-kind restriction enacted in Utah earlier this year that will go into effect in March 2024. Laws regarding the use of social media by minors have also been enacted in Texas and Louisiana, but are not. It is not expected to come into force until next year.
Georgia Republicans plan to push for a similar measure next year, and a bipartisan proposal suggesting age restrictions for social media has also been introduced in Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.