States Attack Young People’s Constitutional Right to Use Social Media: 2023 Year in Review

Deeplinks 2023-12-30


Legislatures in more than half of the country targeted young people’s use of social media this year, with many of the proposals blocking adults’ ability to access the same sites. State representatives introduced dozens of bills that would limit young people’s use of some of the most popular sites and apps, either by requiring the companies to introduce or amend their features or data usage for young users, or by forcing those users to get permission from parents, and in some cases, share their passwords, before they can log on. Courts blocked several of these laws for violating the First Amendment—though some may go into effect later this year. 

Fourteen months after California passed the AADC, it feels like a dam has broken.

How did we get to a point where state lawmakers are willing to censor large parts of the internet? In many ways, California’s Age Appropriate Design Code Act (AADC), passed in September of 2022, set the stage for this year’s battle. EFF asked Governor Newsom to veto that bill before it was signed into law, despite its good intentions in seeking to protect the privacy and well-being of children. Like many of the bills that followed it this year, it runs the risk of imposing surveillance requirements and content restrictions on a broader audience than intended. A federal court blocked the AADC earlier this year, and California has appealed that decision.

Fourteen months after California passed the AADC, it feels like a dam has broken: we’ve seen dangerous social media regulations for young people introduced across the country, and passed in several states, including Utah, Arkansas, and Texas. The severity and individual components of these regulations vary. Like California’s, many of these bills would introduce age verification requirements, forcing sites to identify all of their users, harming both minors’ and adults’ ability to access information online. We oppose age verification requirements, which are the wrong approach to protecting young people online. No one should have to hand over their driver’s license, or, worse, provide biometric information, just to access lawful speech on websites.

A Closer Look at State Social Media Laws Passed in 2023

Utah enacted the first child social media regulation this year, S.B. 152, in March. The law prohibits social media companies from providing accounts to a Utah minor, unless they have the express consent of a parent or guardian. We requested that Utah’s governor veto the bill.

We identified at least four reasons to oppose the law, many of which apply to other states’ social media regulations. First, young people have a First Amendment right to information that the law infringes upon. With S.B. 152 in effect, the majority of young Utahns will find themselves effectively locked out of much of the web absent their parents permission. Second, the law  dangerously requires parental surveillance of young peoples’ accounts, harming their privacy and free speech. Third, the law endangers the privacy of all Utah users, as it requires many sites to collect and analyze private information, like government issued identification, for every user, to verify ages. And fourth, the law interferes with the broader public’s First Amendment right to receive information by requiring that all users in Utah tie their accounts to their age, and ultimately, their identity, and will lead to fewer people expressing themselves, or seeking information online. 

Federal courts have blocked the laws in Arkansas and California.

The law passed despite these problems, as did Utah’s H.B. 311, which creates liability for social media companies should they, in the view of Utah lawmakers, create services that are addictive to minors. H.B. 311 is unconstitutional because it imposes a vague and unscientific standard for what might constitute social media addiction, potentially creating liability for core features of a service, such as letting you know that someone responded to your post. Both S.B. 152 and H.B. 311 are scheduled to take effect in March 2024.&


From feeds:

Fair Use Tracker » Deeplinks
CLS / ROC » Deeplinks


anonymity tech surveillance speech social privacy media free big


Jason Kelley, Aaron Mackey

Date tagged:

12/30/2023, 14:01

Date published:

12/30/2023, 10:58