In a First for the US, the Governor of New York Signs a Bill That Regulates Social Media Algorithms

In a First for the US, the Governor of New York Signs a Bill That Regulates Social Media Algorithms

Kids in New York who use social media will soon see big changes. On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law that will make it harder for digital platforms to use kids’ data and change their formulas.

New York is the first state in U.S. history to pass a rule regulating social media algorithms. This comes as people across the country say that apps like Instagram and TikTok have made people addicted to their features.

Hochul signed the bill just a few days after Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General, called for warning labels to be put on social media sites. This started an argument about how social media might affect the mental health of users, especially teens.

The SAFE For Kids Act in New York says that social media sites must automatically show content for kids under 18. The New York Child Data Protection Act says that websites can’t collect or share the personal information of users under 18 without their permission. This goes beyond the federal privacy protections for kids under 13.

The SAFE For Kids Act also says that platforms must limit late-night app messages that lawmakers in the state say are meant to keep users engaged but could make it harder for them to sleep. Both bills were presented in the fall of 2017 and passed by the state legislature in early June.

Officials in New York praised the law as a necessary check on the power of social media sites over teens.

Hochul told the press on Thursday, “Today, we save our children.” “We have heard their cries for help, which reminds us adults that we have a duty to keep young people in New York safe from harm and from things that are addicting.”

We don’t agree with all parts of these bills, but we’re glad that New York is the first state to pass legislation that recognizes app stores’ duty. That was said by a spokesperson for Meta on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesperson said, “Research shows that the vast majority of parents support laws that require app stores to get parental approval before letting kids download apps. We will continue to work with policymakers in New York and elsewhere to advance this approach.”

Several academics have said that while studies show links between some types of social media use and bad mental health outcomes, like social comparison, it is not as clear that these harms are caused by general social media use. Still, many state and federal politicians have pushed for laws that would make it harder to use social media. They say that tech companies’ products are to blame for eating disorders, trouble sleeping, distractions, and even self-harm and suicide in some cases.

Hochul told the press on Thursday, “We will save lives with this, my friends.”

Thursday, Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, said that the bill would target “the most dangerous parts of social media: the addictive algorithm feeds that take advantage of simple minds.”

James said, “These bills will give my office the power to make rules and make sure businesses follow them.”

Some people, not just those in the tech industry, are against the social media algorithm bill. They say it’s probably unconstitutional because it violates children’s First Amendment rights and makes people wonder how social media can work in real life across state lines.

Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the tech industry advocacy group Chamber of Progress, said, “It’s a good intention, but it’s going after the wrong thing.” “Banning algorithms will make social media worse for teens because they’ll take away the good things that algorithms do for their feeds.”

After the bill was signed into law, it will be the latest in a long line of court cases over state social media rules.

Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and many other states have passed rules that make it harder for social media companies to talk to teens. Some of those rules have been questioned by business groups, and courts have generally been skeptical of them. In Ohio this year, for example, a federal judge temporarily stopped a law that said online platforms couldn’t make accounts for people under 16 without getting permission from their parents. The judge said the law probably violates the First Amendment.

Two states, Texas and Florida, have passed laws that would make it harder for online platforms to moderate their sites. This term, legal challenges made it to the Supreme Court, and a decision is likely in a few weeks.

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