New York Enacts Landmark Laws Protecting Children from Social Media Harms

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New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) took decisive action on Thursday by signing two bills into law aimed at safeguarding children and teens from potential harms associated with social media platforms. These legislative measures place New York among the growing number of states leading the charge in regulating online protections for minors, as federal proposals continue to await legislative action.

The first bill, known as the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, mandates that social media companies obtain parental consent before using “addictive feeds” driven by recommendation algorithms for users under 18 years old. This legislation aims to protect the mental health of minors by limiting exposure to algorithms that can foster addictive behaviors and disrupt sleep patterns, particularly through nighttime usage. Additionally, it prohibits platforms from sending notifications to minors between midnight and 6 AM without parental consent. The law further directs the New York Attorney General’s office to establish appropriate methods for age verification, emphasizing that these methods should not exclusively rely on biometrics or government-issued identification. Companies found violating these provisions could face fines of up to $5,000 per infringement.

The second bill signed into law, the New York Child Data Protection Act, restricts the collection and sale of minors’ personal data without parental consent. Although it does not mandate age verification, this law is set to take effect in one year and seeks to bolster privacy protections for young users online.

Governor Hochul highlighted the bipartisan nature of efforts to regulate online safety for children, noting that similar initiatives have garnered support across party lines in other states. For instance, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation earlier this year requiring parental consent for minors under 16 to create social media accounts. Meanwhile, Maryland Governor Wes Moore (D) enacted comprehensive privacy legislation and the Maryland Kids Code, which aims to curb features on social media platforms that may encourage prolonged use among minors.

Despite widespread bipartisan support at the state level, federal proposals such as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) have encountered delays in receiving floor votes amid concerns from advocacy groups about potential unintended consequences, including impacts on resources for marginalized communities like the LGBTQ+ population.

In anticipation of legal challenges, Governor Hochul and proponents of the SAFE for Kids Act acknowledged opposition from tech industry lobbyists. New York Attorney General Letitia James underscored the grassroots support from parents across the state as a counterforce to industry objections. However, industry associations like NetChoice have already voiced concerns over the constitutionality of the SAFE for Kids Act, arguing that restricting algorithmic curation could inadvertently expose children to more harmful content.

Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the Chamber of Progress, a center-left tech industry group, cautioned that banning algorithms could have unintended negative consequences, potentially making social media environments less beneficial for teenage users.


Governor Hochul defended the legality of the SAFE for Kids Act, affirming in an interview with CBS News that thorough legal reviews had been conducted to ensure its constitutional compliance.

As New York implements these new laws, they join a complex landscape of state regulations aimed at balancing children’s online safety with the innovation and economic interests of tech companies. The ongoing debate underscores the challenges of crafting effective legislation in an evolving digital age, where concerns over privacy, free speech, and protection of vulnerable populations intersect.

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