Tech giants and the ACLU are working in court against Arkansas’ Act 689, the Social Media Safety Act of 2023.

The Social Media Safety Act is a good law by Sen. Tyler Dees (R – Siloam Springs) and Rep. Jon Eubanks (R – Paris).

It requires major social media companies to use age verification to ensure minors do not access social media platforms without parental consent.

The law contains protections for user privacy. A social media company that violated the law could be held liable.

Act 689 narrowly cleared the Arkansas Senate last spring, but received strong support in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Governor Sanders signed it into law following its passage.

On June 29 the trade association NetChoice filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arkansas on behalf of its members — which include tech giants such as Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), Twitter, SnapChat, Pinterest, and TikTok.

The lawsuit alleges that Arkansas’ Social Media Safety Act is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

On July 14 the ACLU of Arkansas filed a proposed amicus brief supporting NetChoice’s lawsuit and opposing Act 689.

The ACLU’s amicus brief claims,

Requiring individuals to verify their ages before using social media will impose significant burdens on the exercise of First Amendment rights online. [The Social Media Safety Act] will rob people of anonymity, deter privacy- and  security-minded users, and block some individuals from accessing the largest social media platforms at all. Additionally, imposing a parental consent requirement on access for young people will impermissibly burden their rights to access information and express themselves online, stigmatize the use of social media, and run counter to the parental authority of parents who do not object to their kids using social media.

The truth is the Social Media Safety Act respects parental authority by prohibiting social media companies from registering children as users without parental consent. Age verification and parental consent requirements for social media companies simply do not violate the First Amendment.

News reports have highlighted time and again how social media giants serve teens a steady “diet of darkness” online.

Despite employing tens of thousands of content moderators, TikTok’s algorithm repeatedly has been shown to inundate teenagers with videos about eating disorders, body image, self-harm, and suicide.

In February the American Psychological Association’s Chief Science Officer told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that social media use heightens the risk of negative influences among adolescents, and that young people are accessing social media sites that promote eating disorders and other harmful behavior.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has published an analysis determining that social media is a major cause of mental illness in girls.

And a recent CDC report found 16% of high school students were electronically bullied in 2021 through texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media platforms.

Social media companies are owned and operated by adults. Given how harmful social media content can be, the adults running these tech companies should not be able to let children use their platforms without parental consent. Arkansas’ Social Media Protection Act helps address this serious problem.

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.