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New York Considers Regulating What Children See in their Social Media Feeds

New York lawmakers are finalising legislation to limit children's social media feeds. The proposed law seeks to address concerns about addictive algorithm-curated content. Other states have taken similar efforts to reduce children's use of social media.

A man is scrolling his phone
Credit: Unsplash

Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James have been pushing for these laws since October, despite fierce opposition from the tech industry.

The amended version of the legislation removes provisions that would have limited the amount of time a child could spend on a social media site. With the legislative session coming to a close this week, Albany lawmakers are making a final push to get the bill passed.

Assembly sponsor Nily Rozic, a Democrat, stated the motive for the measure, noting, "The algorithmic feeds are designed as dopamine for kids." We are trying to regulate that design feature." The goal is to protect young people's mental health and development by removing addictive aspects that keep them scrolling continuously.

New York's move follows other states' efforts to reduce children's usage of social media. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has approved legislation prohibiting social media accounts for minors under 14 and requiring parental consent for 14 and 15-year-olds. Utah updated its laws in March, forcing social media sites to verify their users' ages while eliminating the need for parental authorization to create an account. However, a federal judge last year blocked an Arkansas state law that would have required parental consent.

The proposed Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) For Kids Act in New York would prohibit algorithm-fed content without "verifiable parental consent." Instead of automated algorithms suggesting addictive content based on past user activity, young account holders would see a chronological feed of content from users they already follow.

Critics of the bill, including the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, argue that it could have unintended consequences, such as increased data collection by internet companies. Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the privacy advocacy group, stated, "Lawmakers are legislating a fairy tale. There simply is no technology that can prove New Yorkers' ages without undermining their privacy."

The tech industry trade group NetChoice, which includes members like Meta and X, accused New York of attempting to replace parents with government control. They also argue that the bill is unconstitutional, as it violates the First Amendment by requiring websites to censor access to content without proof of ID and age.

If the bill passes through the Assembly and Senate, Governor Hochul is anticipated to sign it into law. In addition to the social media restrictions, she is advocating for another law focused on data collecting. Hochul regards these laws as key objectives in protecting children from the dangers of the digital era.

  • New York lawmakers finalising legislation to regulate children's social media feeds

  • Proposed law aims to address concerns of addictive algorithm-curated content

  • Similar actions taken by other states to curb social media use among children

Source: AP NEWS

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