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New York Enacts Groundbreaking Measures to Safeguard Children from Digital Harm

Payam Javan: On June 20, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law two bills aimed at curbing what she described as “addictive” social media use among children and teenagers across the state. Hochul, a Democrat, had been pushing for these measures since October 2023, citing concerns over the detrimental impact of algorithm-driven social media feeds on the mental health of young people in New York.

The first bill, known as the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation for Kids Act, prohibits the use of algorithm-generated feeds on social media accounts of users under 18 without parental consent. This legislation requires platforms like TikTok and Instagram to develop age verification methods that do not rely on government-issued IDs, overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James. It also restricts notifications to minors during late-night and early-morning hours unless parents explicitly allow them, giving parents control over their children’s digital exposure.

The second bill, the New York Child Protection Act, mandates that online platforms cannot collect, share, or sell minors’ personal data without informed consent or unless strictly necessary for the site’s operation. Violators of these laws face fines of $5,000 per breach, with affected parents able to seek damages from social media platforms.

Despite bipartisan support in Albany, these laws are expected to face legal challenges from the tech industry, including claims of unconstitutional censorship and privacy concerns. Industry groups like the Chamber of Progress and NetChoice have criticized the legislation, arguing that it infringes on free speech and could compromise online privacy by mandating data collection and content regulation.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James has pledged to defend the laws during the rulemaking process, emphasizing their importance in safeguarding children’s well-being amidst increasing digital influence.

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