Last week, NetChoice LLC -- a trade organization representing some of technology's biggest players (including Meta, Twitter, and more) -- filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new Arkansas state law that places restrictions on children's usage of social media platforms.
The new law, Arkansas Senate Bill 396 (also referred to as the "Social Media Safety Act") is intended to go into effect September 1st. It places the following restrictions on the use of certain social media platforms by minors:
- Minors must have express consent of a parent/legal guardian in order to hold an account on a social media platform;
- Social media companies must verify ages of account holders; and
- Social media companies must use a third party vendor to perform age verification before allowing access to the platform.
Notably, the Act draws distinctions about applicability based on the type of platform (for example, companies that provide career development opportunities, exclusively offer interactive gaming or virtual gaming, and others, are not included in the Act's purview). Violations of the law come with penalties of $2,500 per violation.
NetChoice LLC's lawsuit alleges that Arkansas's Social Media Safety Act is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment: "By restricting the access of minors—and adults (who now have to prove their age)—to these ubiquitous online services, Arkansas has 'with one broad stroke' burdened access to what for many are the principal sources for speaking and listening, learning about current events, 'and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge.'”
The complaint further alleges that the Act's applicability exceptions draw content, speaker, and viewpoint based distinctions, stating that "[w]hile the state might think that some of those distinctions are sensible, the Supreme Court has long recognized that it is not the role of the government to decide what expressive materials minors should be allowed to access."
Arkansas's Social Media Safety Act and NetChoice's lawsuit come on the heels of a Utah law passed earlier this year that also places restrictions on minors' use of social media, which is also currently subject to legal challenge.