Arkansas judge considers blocking social media law before Sept. 1
A federal judge said Tuesday he will decide whether to temporarily block Arkansas' new social media age verification law by the end of the month.
The big picture: Similar laws that require social media companies to use a third party verifying new users are age 18 or older when they create accounts also have been passed in Utah, California and Texas; Louisiana requires minors to be 16 to create such accounts.
- Arkansas' is set to be the first to take effect, potentially setting a precedent for minors' First Amendment rights.
State of play: Supporters say the law will help protect children from online predators who use social media to target victims and also from the potentially harmful effects of some content.
- Opponents say the law raises privacy, free speech and enforceability concerns, while discriminating against the largest social media companies.
The latest: U.S. Western District of Arkansas Judge Timothy Brooks heard expert testimony from Tony Allen, CEO of Age Checked Certification Scheme of the United Kingdom.
Quick take: Allen was a witness for the defense, but much of what he said also supported the plaintiffs:
- After consent is granted for a minor to create an account, Allen hasn't seen an effective system for a social media or verification company to keep track of the "permission slip."
- It's easy to confirm the age of a person who is granting consent to a minor, but it's much harder to confirm they're the minor's guardian.
- Parental controls already exist on most social media platforms and on devices.
- Costs will vary, but one analysis by the U.K. government estimates that each age verification check will cost social media companies about 12 cents.
Arkansas' law is a "check at the gate" and doesn't address what content minors view once they've been confirmed for an account, Allen said.
Threat level: The law does not impact social media companies making less than $100 million in annual gross revenue, so smaller sites won't have to comply.
- Those sites include controversial Kik and FetLife, or potentially polarizing sites like Parler and Truth Social.
- It's not clear if direct-messaging apps like SnapChat would require parental consent.
The intrigue: Earlier this year, lawmakers loosened the state's child labor law. Teens under age 16 no longer need a work permit through the Department of Labor and Licensing before they can start a job.
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