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Children and teens under 18 in Louisiana may soon need their parents’ permission to sign up for online accounts, including social media, gaming and more, under a recently passed state bill.
The measure, which still needs to be signed by the state’s governor to take effect, follows a trend of laws in conservative states such as Utah and Arkansas which seek to limit the unrestricted access of adolescents to social media. Liberal states like California, as well as some Democratic lawmakers in Congress, are also working on new regulations to protect children from some of the harmful effects of social media.
While protecting children online is a value shared by all, tech companies and many civil society groups that oppose the industry on other issues have warned that such legislation ignores the positive effects social media can have, particularly for marginalized youth. They also warn that the new restrictions could have unintended harmful effects on children, such as limiting the resources they can turn to for help from negative home lives and forcing technology platforms to collect more information about both children and for adults to ensure age-based matching.
Although, unanimous vote in both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature highlights the popularity of legislation aimed at protecting children from online harm.
The bill would also make it clear that agreements entered into by minors when they signed up for existing accounts can be voided. State code already says parents or legal guardians can break contracts their children sign up for.
NetChoice, a group that represents internet platforms including Amazon, Google, Meta and TikTok, said he opposes the Louisiana bill and hopes the governor will veto it. NetChoice is right now sued the state of California for its Age-Appropriate Design Code, which has similar goals of protecting children from online harm, due to alleged First Amendment issues. NetChoice vice president and general counsel Carl Szabo said in a statement that the Louisiana bill would also violate the First Amendment.
“It will destroy anonymous browsing and gaming – requiring citizens to provide data to prove their identity and age just to use an online service. Anonymity can be important for people who use social media services for things like whistleblowers, victims and people identifying crimes in a neighborhood that fears backlash,” Szabo said. “What’s worse is that it fails to really address the underlying issues. Instead, policymakers in Louisiana could actually help teens and parents by following the educational approaches of Virginia and Florida.”
The office of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the bill. If he decides to sign it, it will go into effect in August 2024.
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