Big Tech Pushes Back Against NY Online Child Safety Bills

In a bid to thwart two proposed New York bills aimed at safeguarding children from the potential harms of social media addiction, tech giants Google and Meta have joined forces with other Big Tech firms, intensifying the battle over online child safety.

The proposed legislation includes the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, which seeks to curb social media companies’ use of addictive features that may contribute to excessive screen time among children. This act mandates parental consent for the use of addictive feeds and restricts push notifications to minors during certain hours. Additionally, the New York Child Data Protection Act aims to protect minors’ personal data from exploitation.

According to reports, Big Tech firms, along with advocacy groups and companies from various sectors, have collectively spent over $823,235 lobbying Albany lawmakers against these bills. This expenditure is anticipated to exceed $1 million, reflecting the significant resources invested in opposing the proposed legislation.

Concerns raised by tech firms include fears that the bills could impinge on freedom of speech, online privacy for teenagers, and access to the internet for marginalized communities. Additionally, there are apprehensions that the legislation could hamper efforts to combat hate speech through algorithmic tools.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a co-sponsor of the bills, acknowledged the formidable opposition faced by the legislation, citing the influence of well-funded lobbying efforts. Despite this, Gounardes expressed confidence in garnering bipartisan support for the bills in the Senate, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing children’s safety in online environments.

However, tech companies argue that a patchwork of state-level regulations could lead to inconsistencies in online experiences for teenagers and their parents. A spokesperson for Meta stressed the need for comprehensive legislation that empowers parents and supports teenagers online, cautioning against hastily implemented measures.

As the debate rages on, the fate of the proposed bills hangs in the balance, with stakeholders on both sides fiercely advocating for their respective positions.