New York Governor Signs Bills To Curb ‘Addictive’ Social Media Algorithms For Minors

New York has joined other states in restricting social media platforms from exposing minors to “addictive” algorithmic content without parental consent. On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two significant bills aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of social media on children and teens, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The first bill, the “New York Child Data Protection Act,” restricts platforms like Facebook and Snapchat from showing suggested posts to users under 18 unless they come from accounts the minors follow and have parental approval. The second bill, “Stop Addictive Feeds Exploration for Kids,” prevents social media sites from sending notifications about suggested posts to minors between midnight and 6 a.m. without parental consent.

“These first-in-the-nation requirements will shield youth from harmful algorithms that exploit their personal information,” Hochul stated. She emphasized that these algorithms create a “barrage of unsolicited images and messages” designed to keep young users “hooked” on social media. “Today, we save our children,” said Hochul, addressing the crowd of lawmakers, parents, and advocates at the bill signing. “We have a moral responsibility to protect young New Yorkers from harm.”

With these bills, New York joins states like Maryland, Vermont, and Colorado, which have enacted similar laws to protect children’s data and alter how social media companies operate.

However, industry group NetChoice has criticized these measures, arguing that they violate First Amendment protections by censoring online speech. The group plans to challenge the New York laws, noting their success in overturning similar legislation in other states.

Amidst growing concerns over the mental health of young people, big tech companies face increased scrutiny and legislative actions. Recent data highlights rising rates of depression and other mental health issues among youth, which some attribute to social media use.

Earlier this week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy suggested that Congress should consider warning labels for social media platforms, similar to those on cigarettes, to caution teens about their potential addictiveness. However, federal legislation on this issue remains stalled in Congress.

“Is anyone expecting a federal solution soon? Neither am I. It’s a shame,” Hochul remarked during the ceremony. “Congress should act to establish a national standard. Until then, New York will lead the nation as we have always done.”

The new laws will take effect 180 days after New York Attorney General Letitia James finalizes the necessary rules and guidelines. Social media platforms that fail to comply could face fines of up to $5,000 per violation.