Laws with regulations for social media companies are popping up in more and more states. So far, Utah, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana have passed these laws. One such bill was set to go into effect in Arkansas on Sept. 1st, 2023, but was blocked by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks granted the preliminary injunction blocking the effects of the bill sought by NetChoice, a group composed of several tech companies including Meta, TikTok and X.
The main problem that NetChoice has with these bills is the requirement to verify the age of any user signing up for their platforms. This means all adults in that state would also have to submit age verification in order to continue to use their social media accounts. This presents a huge privacy issue for social media users of each of these states. NetChoice argued the requirement violated the constitutional rights of users and arbitrarily singled out types of speech that would be restricted.
“Age-gating social media platforms for adults and minors does not appear to be an effective approach when, in reality, it is the content on particular platforms that is driving the state’s true concerns,” wrote Judge Brooks.
I completely agree with Judge Brooks here, in that these laws will do very little to address the problem they are trying to solve. Kids who live in these states that are already going behind their parent’s backs to create a social media account will simply install a VPN to sign up for the account.
The VPN will virtually put their device in a different state or country allowing them to use the social media platform they are unable to use in their own state without verifying their age.
Instead, education campaigns will help parents understand the kind of parental controls they can use on their children’s devices to prevent access to social media platforms. Other useful legislation would be to require social media platforms to allow monitoring and supervision of child accounts. This will allow parents to protect their kids more efficiently, instead of relying on the government to attempt to protect them.
Since I am a resident of Utah, I am happy to see these types of laws looked at with more scrutiny. As they are currently written, they will do nothing to help kids, and will cause some serious privacy concerns for adults.
Do you think these laws would work, and if not, what would you like to see the government do to help this issue?