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31 Jan 2024

Natasha Singer, New York Times (USA)

USA: Tech industry group lawsuits challenge new online safety laws for children in several States using freedom of speech argument


"Silicon Valley Battles States Over New Online Safety Laws for Children," 31 Jan 2024

...Ohio enacted a social media statute that would require Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube to get a parent’s consent before permitting children under age 16 to use their platforms.

...Just before the measure was to take effect, a tech industry group called NetChoice — which represents Google, Meta, Snap, TikTok and others — filed a lawsuit to block it on free speech grounds…

Social media platforms said that some of the state laws contradicted one another and that they would prefer Congress to enact a federal law setting national standards for children’s online safety.

A landmark new California law... would require many popular social media and multiplayer video game apps to turn on the highest privacy settings… by default for minors.

But free speech lawsuits by NetChoice have dealt a major blow to these state efforts.

In California and Arkansas last year, judges in the NetChoice cases temporarily blocked the new state laws from taking effect...

NetChoice has also filed a lawsuit to try to block the new social media bill in Utah that would require Instagram and TikTok to verify users’ ages and obtain parental permission for minors to have accounts.

Civil rights groups have warned that such legislative efforts could stifle freedom of expression... Requiring parental consent for social media… could also hinder young people from finding support groups or important resources about reproductive health or gender identity.

In a statement, Snap said many of the provisions in the federal bill reflected the company’s existing safeguards

Google and TikTok declined to comment.

Meta has called for Congress to pass legislation that would make the Apple and Google app stores — not social media companies — responsible for verifying a user’s age and obtaining permission from a parent… “We support clear, consistent legislation that makes it simpler for parents to help manage their teens’ online experiences, and that holds all apps teens use to the same standard,” Meta said…