New York passes legislation to curb ‘addictive’ social media algorithms for children News
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New York passes legislation to curb ‘addictive’ social media algorithms for children

New York state lawmakers passed legislation on Friday that would force major social media platforms to modify their policies and prohibit the use of “addictive” recommendation algorithms when deciding what children under 18 see in their social media feeds.

Under the new legislation, social media companies would display content to younger users in chronological order. These platforms would also be banned from sending children alerts between midnight and 6 AM unless parents consent to the late-night alerts and turn the feature back on. The legislation characterized algorithmic feeds as “addictive” and stated that they adversely impact children’s mental health.

New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes, the sponsor of the bill, said that data indicates social media features serve as triggers enticing users to reengage with the platforms. He further noted that these programs are designed to be addictive and expose children to content they did not choose to see in the first place. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign the bill into law, having celebrated the bill’s passage on Friday.

The legislation empowers New York Attorney General Letitia James, who advocated for its passage, to create guidelines for verifying user age and determining parental consent. The legislation will go into effect 180 days after these guidelines are established.

The California state Senate also passed legislation similar to the New York bill in May. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) aims to potentially hold social media companies accountable for recommending harmful content to children.

Critics of the bill claim the restrictions may violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Evan Greer, the director of the nonprofit digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, commented last year in response to KOSA that courts have clearly supported the regulation of commercial surveillance and specific harmful business practices such as autoplay and infinite scroll by companies. He noted, however, that allowing the government to control what young people can and cannot see online oversteps into content regulation and infringes on First Amendment rights.

Meta, the parent company behind Instagram and Facebook, proactively rolled out new parental controls last year. These tools allow parents to set time limits and keep tabs on their children’s activity on Instagram.