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Tech firms sue Arkansas over social media age verification law | Engadget


The technology industry isn’t thrilled with Arkansas’ law requiring social media age checks. NetChoice, a tech trade group that includes Google, Meta and TikTok, has sued the state of Arkansas over claimed US Constitution violations in the Social Media Safety Act. The measure allegedly treads on First Amendment free speech rights by making users hand over private data in order to access social networks. It also “seizes decision making” from families, NetChoice argues.

The alliance also believes the Act hurts privacy and safety by making internet companies rely on a third-party service to store and track kids’ data. State residents often don’t know or associate with the service, NetChoice claims, and an external firm is supposedly a “prime target” for hacks. The law tries to regulate the internet outside state laws while ignoring federal law, according to the lawsuit. As Arkansas can’t verify residency without requiring data, it’s effectively asking everyone to submit documents.

State Attorney General Tim Griffin tells Engadget in a statement that he looks forward to “vigorously defending” the Social Media Safety Act. The law requires age verification for all users by submitting driver’s licenses and other “commercially reasonable” methods. Anyone under 18 also needs to get a parent’s consent. There are exceptions that appear to cover major social networks and their associated categories, such as those for “professional networking” (think LinkedIn) or short entertaining video clips (like TikTok).

Arkansas’ requirement is part of a greater trend among politicians to demand age verification for social media. States like Utah, Connecticut and Ohio have either passed or are considering similar laws, while Senator Josh Hawley proposed a federal bill barring all social media access for kids under 16. They’re concerned younger users might be exposed to creeps and inappropriate content, and that use can harm mental health by presenting a skewed view of the world and encouraging addiction.

There’s no guarantee the lawsuit will succeed. If it does, though, it could affect similar attempts to verify ages through personal data. If Arkansas’ approach is deemed unconstitutional, other states might have to drop their own efforts.


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