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USA: Ban on “addictive” social feeds for youth planned

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Social media feeds that generate billions in revenue on Meta or TikTok are under attack in the USA: Kathy Hochul, Governor of the State of New York, signed two bills on Thursday aimed at protecting children and young people from the harms of social media. This makes New York the latest state to take action, while proposals at the federal level are still awaiting votes.

One of the laws, the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation for Kids Act (SAFE), will require parental consent for social media companies to use “addictive feeds” controlled by recommendation algorithms for children and young people under the age of 18. If this passes, Instagram, TikTok, and Co would have to redesign their apps for the huge target group of under-18s.

The other bill, the New York Child Data Protection Act, would restrict data collection from minors without consent and limit the sale of such information, but would not require age verification. This law will take effect in a year. States across the country have taken the lead in passing laws to protect children online – and it’s an area where both Republicans and Democrats seem to agree.

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Cross-party agreement on protecting children online

Although approaches vary somewhat by party, politicians on both sides have signaled a strong interest in similar regulations to protect children online. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, signed a law in March requiring parental consent for children under 16 to have social media accounts.

In May, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed a comprehensive privacy law as well as the Maryland Kids Code, which prohibits the use of features designed to keep minors on social media for long periods of time, such as autoplay or spam notifications. “States are taking important steps to protect children online, but ultimately we need a comprehensive federal privacy law,” said Irene Ly, policy counsel at Common Sense Media.

Demands for a comprehensive Federal Data Protection Act

Common Sense supports the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which will take effect in July 2024 and will require companies to prioritize the safety and well-being of children when designing their products. Ly said she hopes federal lawmakers will “follow the lead of states and make young people’s privacy and safety a priority.”

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