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New York State Moves to Protect Minors Online
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New York state lawmakers passed legislation to prevent social media platforms from showing “addictive” algorithmic content to users under 18 without parental consent. Another bill restricting online sites from collecting and selling personal data of minors also passed. Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign both bills into law, which aim to address youth mental health issues. Social media companies, such as Meta Platforms, might see a revenue impact. NetChoice, an industry association, criticized the legislation as an assault on free speech. However, a governor’s spokesperson clarified that the law wouldn’t censor content but would use age-verification methods to maintain anonymity.

New York State Moves to Protect Minors Online

Legislation to Curb Addictive Content

New York state lawmakers have passed groundbreaking legislation aimed at safeguarding young internet users. The new law bars social media platforms from exposing users under the age of 18 to algorithmically generated content deemed “addictive” unless parental consent is obtained. This move reflects a growing trend among states to mitigate online risks faced by children and teenagers.

Restrictions on Data Collection and Sales

In addition to curbing addictive content, a companion bill received final legislative approval in the New York Assembly. This bill focuses on restricting online platforms from collecting and selling personal data of underage users. Both pieces of legislation successfully cleared the state Senate, marking a significant legislative victory.

  
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Governor’s Expected Approval

Governor Kathy Hochul is anticipated to sign both measures into law, reinforcing the state’s commitment to youth mental health and digital safety. She praised the bills as a “historic step forward” in addressing the mental health crisis among young people and creating a safer online environment.

Impact on Social Media Companies

Social media giants like Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook and Instagram, could face financial repercussions due to these new regulations. A Harvard University study highlighted that the six largest social media platforms made $11 billion from advertising to minors in 2022, emphasizing the economic stakes involved.

Mental Health Concerns

Supporters of the legislation underscored the link between excessive social media use and mental health issues among adolescents. Studies have shown higher rates of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders connected to extensive use of social media platforms.

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Industry Opposition

NetChoice, an industry association, has vehemently opposed the legislation, labeling it an “assault on free speech and the open internet.” They argue that the law forces websites to censor content unless visitors verify their age with identification. The association has successfully challenged similar laws in other states on constitutional grounds.

Clarifications from the Governor’s Office

Despite industry pushback, a spokesperson for Governor Hochul clarified that the new law would not censor content but would instead implement age-verification methods that preserve user anonymity. This approach aims to balance protecting minors while respecting user privacy.



Meta’s Stance

Interestingly, Meta Platforms, led by Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has shown some support for the bill, indicating a potential shift in how social media companies might adapt to new regulatory landscapes aimed at protecting younger users.



 

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