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Arkansas Limits Social Media Access for Kids Under 18, With One Major Exemption

Thomas Spritlzer yesterday installed a battery of parental controls for the Report. "I know youngsters are spending upwards of 4-5 hours per day reading the trash I put out. I'm completely ok with that, providing they continue my program to morph them into Right Wing Bible Thumping whack jobs. But I'm getting pressure by Illinois Gov Fatso, so I guess I need to ....this sucks!"

Arkansas Limits Social Media Access for Kids Under 18, With One Major Exemption

The Social Media Safety Act takes effect on Sept. 1, and requires parental consent to create accounts, plus ID verification, but only on sites that fit specific categories.

By Emily Dreibelbis, PC Magazine


Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed a new bill requiring parental consent for users under 18 to create social media accounts.

"We know that social media, while it can be a great tool, and it's something a lot of us use on a daily basis and can be a great resource, can also be really dangerous for young kids," Sanders tells(Opens in a new window) Fox News. "Depression, loneliness, suicide rates among teenagers have doubled since social media became so widespread."

The bill(Opens in a new window), dubbed the Social Media Safety Act, takes effect on September 1, 2023. It defines social media companies as online forums that allow users to create public profiles and interact digitally. Any site that fits this description must now perform an age-verification check in Arkansas. To prevent kids and parents from bypassing the new process, the law relies on third-party companies to verify users' personal information through a driver's license or other photo ID.

The Arkansas bill applies to most major social media sites—TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat—with one curious loophole: YouTube is exempt. While the video-sharing platform, which offers a popular(Opens in a new window) YouTube Kids app, has had its share of problems with toxicity, YouTube is owned by Google, which is not included in the bill due to the "other services that Google offers, like cloud storage, et cetera,” Sen. Tyler Dees, a lead co-sponsor of the legislation, tells CNN(Opens in a new window).

Other popular sites are also exempt, like Amazon, as the bill focuses its attention on new accounts created by children, not existing adult accounts. An amendment(Opens in a new window) added in the final stages of bill approval also exempts sites from age verification that fall in certain categories, including companies that exclusively offer subscription content, social media that permits users to “generate short video clips of dancing, voice overs, or other acts of entertainment”; and sites exclusively for video-gaming focused social networking.

Professional sites such as Microsoft-owned LinkedIn are also exempt under another provision that safeguards companies that provide “career development opportunities, including professional networking, job skills, learning certifications, and job posting and application services."

Critics of the bill say these loopholes appear to benefit social media companies that lobbied to influence the legislation, raising questions about how much current and future online activity the legislation can cover.

The move comes after the Utah governor signed a similar bill as states ramp up efforts to protect teens online. Existing federal legislation, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), bans the collection of personal information on people under the age of 13 without parental consent, which is why many social networks require users to be over 13.

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