New York’s creative solution to targeting children online: Block the algorithms

New York’s creative solution to targeting children online: Block the algorithms
  • PublishedJune 5, 2024

New York could soon become the first state to pass a law restricting social media platforms from using algorithms to promote content to minors.

New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers are nearing a legislative deal on the proposal, according to a person familiar with the matter. The bill would push platforms such as TikTok and Meta’s Instagram to rank content in chronological order by default for young users.

That could mean significant changes to how kids in New York interact with social media apps and would make algorithmically generated content feeds an opt-in experience requiring parental consent.

The looming legislative agreement also includes a separate measure that seeks to protect children’s privacy, the person added. As currently written, that bill would restrict websites from collecting or sharing the personal data of users under 18 without consent, expanding on existing federal privacy protections for children under 13.

A tentative deal on the social media bill was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal. The agreement covering children’s privacy has not been previously reported.

In addition to clamping down on algorithmic content feeds, the social media legislation would also force platforms to let parents set tougher limits on their kids’ social media use, such as during nights, and to set limits on app notifications that technology critics say keep users hooked.

Both pieces of legislation were introduced last fall. State lawmakers could vote as soon as this week, according to the Journal.

As the bills have progressed, state lawmakers have been the target of intense tech industry lobbying — mirroring the legislative battles in states such as ArkansasFloridaLouisiana, and many others that have pushed to pass laws clamping down on social media companies.

Industry groups have challenged some of the legislation coming out of those other states, in many cases arguing that they infringe on the First Amendment rights of teens to access lawful information. In Ohio this year, a federal judge temporarily blocked a law that prohibits online platforms from creating accounts for users under 16 unless they obtain parental consent, saying the legislation is likely unconstitutional.

New York officials have said their proposal is about regulating how platforms can display content, not blocking user access.

“We’re not banning young people from social media,” Hochul said in an interview on NPR Monday. “Not at all. We’re simply saying that they should not be bombarded with these feeds that can be sorted a different way and not in a way that is so negative for them.”


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