Social media firms have traditionally been shielded from all legal responsibility linked with the content material showing on their platforms because of Part 230 of The Communications Decency Act. 1 The shortcoming to carry social media firms, like Meta and TikTok, legally accountable for content material has led to growing frustration and outrage, particularly as charges of suicide, self-harm, and despair proceed to extend in younger women. Lawsuits towards social media firms have usually failed as a result of blanket protections of Part 230. Now, state legislatures are enacting legal guidelines to try to flip the tide.
Utah just lately turned the primary state to cross a set of legal guidelines often known as the “Social Media Regulation Modification,” which goals to strictly restrict entry to social media for anybody beneath the age of 18 with out parental consent and to permit mother and father entry to the social media accounts of their children2. It additionally prohibits platforms permitting non-public messaging between minors and people outdoors of their buddy listing, amongst different structural modifications to how social media websites perform. The legal guidelines are set to enter impact in 2024.
Following in Utah’s footsteps, Montana simply handed laws which might completely ban TikTok by prohibiting app shops from offering TikTok to customers beginning in 20243. If signed into legislation by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, the TikTok ban would take impact in January 2024.
California now has laws on the books that requires social media platforms which may be utilized by youngsters to keep up excessive privateness settings by default and prohibits the gathering of non-public data of minors in an effort to manage promoting focusing on minors on social media4. Round all of those new legal guidelines are questions relating to enforceability and constitutionality, particularly whether or not this sort of laws violates the First Modification. The speculation behind these legal guidelines appears to be: if you cannot sue them, ban them or severely limit entry to them.
What stays to be seen is whether or not such legal guidelines can or shall be enforced. Presently, it’s the observe for social media firms to limit entry to their websites by youngsters beneath 13 with a purpose to adjust to the federal Youngsters’s On-line Privateness Safety Act. These age restrictions haven’t been efficient as a result of there are simple workarounds and no strict penalties on firms. Some states like Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, and New Jersey have launched laws that imposes stronger penalties on social media firms and there have been requires stricter age verification strategies as nicely.
In an effort to cut back youngsters circumventing age restrictions, social media platforms could also be required to ask for identification to be uploaded to confirm their customers are of an applicable age. Because of this, and as extra id verification is required, authorized points round privateness requirements are raised.
Constitutionally as nicely, legal guidelines that prohibit youngsters from utilizing social media with out parental consent might infringe on their First Modification rights, and not using a compelling state curiosity in doing so. This is among the arguments massive tech firms have latched on to in lawsuits towards a number of the states the place probably the most restrictive legal guidelines have been enacted.
These lawsuits are ongoing as extra states line as much as embody extra restrictions on social media firms and their younger customers. The social media panorama might be basically modified based mostly on the passage of those legal guidelines and the way courts determine these points. It’s gone time that the free cross supplied beneath Part 230 is revoked, however how to do this whereas additionally upholding privateness and free speech rights are points which might be simply starting to be addressed.
1. 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)
2. S.B. 152, 2023 Common Session (Utah 2023) SB0152 (utah.gov)
3. S.B. 419, 68th Legislature, 2023 Re. Session (Montana 2023) SB0419.pdf (mt.gov)
4. A.B. 2273, Chapter 320, 2022 (California 2022) AB2273 (ca.gov)
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