Governor signs legislation to restrict addictive social media

Posted 20 June 2024 at 3:16 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul today signed nation-leading legislation to combat addictive social media feeds and protect kids online.

Legislation S.7694A/A.8148A establishes the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) For Kids Act to require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18.

Legislation S.7695B/A.8149A enables the New York Child Data Protection Act to prohibit online sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website.

“Young people across the nation are facing a mental health crisis fueled by addictive social media feeds – and New York is leading the way with a new model for addressing the crisis and protecting our kids,” Governor Hochul said. “By reining in addictive feeds and shielding kids’ personal data, we’ll provide a safer digital environment, give parents more peace of mind, and create a brighter future for young people across New York.”

The Governor was joined at today’s bill signing by Attorney General Letitia James and bill sponsors State Senator Andrew Gounardes and State Assemblymember Nily Rozic, marking the culmination of a jointly led push to pass and sign this nation-leading legislation.

With this newly signed legislation, New York has established the nation’s most stringent protections to safeguard kids on social media. This action also builds on Governor Hochul’s ongoing efforts to address the youth mental health crisis.

“Addictive feeds are getting our kids hooked on social media and hurting their mental health, and families are counting on us to help address this crisis,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James. “The legislation signed by Governor Hochul today will make New York the national leader in addressing the youth mental health crisis and an example for other states to follow.”

The legislation signed today addresses critical challenges facing young people. According to an advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General, recent research shows that adolescents who spend more than three hours per day on social media face double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Additionally, a recent report from Pew Research Center found that six out of 10 teens say they feel they have little or no control over the personal information that social media companies collect about them.

The SAFE For Kids Act

Addictive feeds, or algorithmically driven feeds, facilitate unhealthy levels of social media use. This legislation will require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. Unless parental consent is granted, users under 18 will not receive addictive feeds. Notably, the SAFE for Kids Act is the first bill of its kind to be signed into law in any state across the nation.

Under this law, kids may still use social media. For example, they can continue to search for specific topics of interest or subscribe to creators but will not be subject to algorithmically driven feeds that promote unhealthy levels of engagement. The law will also prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications regarding addictive feeds to minors from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. without parental consent. The law will authorize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to enforce the law and ensure compliance, including by seeking civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, among other remedies. And finally, it calls for the establishment of acceptable age verification and parent consent methods, to be determined by the OAG as part of a rulemaking process.

The New York Child Data Protection Act

This legislation will prohibit online sites and connected devices from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. It also authorizes the OAG to enforce the law, including by seeking civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.