New York Governor Hochul signs legislation aimed at protecting kids online

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, June 20, 2024
Hochul signs legislation aimed at protecting kids online
Lauren Glassberg has the latest on the new legislation aimed at protecting kids online.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed legislation that would allow parents to block their children from getting social media posts suggested by a platform's algorithm, a move to limit feeds critics argue are addictive.

Under the legislation, feeds on apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited for people under age 18 to posts from accounts they follow, rather than content suggested by an automated algorithm. It would also block platforms from sending minors notifications on suggested posts between midnight and 6 a.m.

Both provisions could be turned off if a minor gets what the bill defines as "verifiable parental consent."

The law does not take effect immediately. State Attorney General Letitia James is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying a user's age and parental consent. After the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement the regulations.

Hochul, alongside James and other key advocates, acknowledged that while the direct beneficiaries of this legislation may never realize the dangers they were saved from, the impact is profound.

"In our hearts, we know that we've already lost too many kids or seen them spiral for a long time. It's our job to pull them back, to let them know that their lives matter," she said.

The impact of social media on young people's mental health is being considered the defining public health challenge of our time. Critics argue some platform algorithms are addicting to children.

The Safe for Kids Act requires social media companies to restrict a child's access to addictive feeds. The constant scrolling is sometimes referred to as the "doom scroll."

The law will apply to users younger than 18 years old and it will require age verification and parental content. It also allows the attorney general to seek penalties if the new law is violated.

NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that includes X and Meta, has criticized the legislation as unconstitutional.

"This is an assault on free speech and the open internet by the State of New York," Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. "New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age."

Then there's the second piece to this puzzle, The Child Data Protection Act, which prohibits sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18 without consent.

"They're dealing with the negative effects of mental health that are driven by social media and the addictive algorithms that bombard users, creating, literally, addictions," Hochul said.

Ahead of the signing, New York City schools Chancellor David Banks indicated he is closing in on some sort of cellphone restriction in schools.

Banks said many details need to be worked out, and he is meeting with students, parents, and educators alike, as well as union officials.

But he says parents he has spoken to feel like "they have lost control" of the social media their children are seeing and he is hearing nearly universally that students' cellphone addiction is increasingly dangerous.

Last month Hochul revealed she is interested in some type of ban on smartphones in schools -- citing the constant influence of social media in students' lives.

Just this week, the nation's top doctor, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, called for social media platforms to include health warnings for younger users, similar to what you see on tobacco products.

Research shows kids who spend an average of three hours or more on social media a day double their risk of anxiety and depression.

That's key because on average, adolescents spend roughly 4.8 hours a day on social media.

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Some information from The Associated Press

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