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New York moves to limit kids’ access to ‘addictive feeds’

New York’s state legislature has passed a bill that would prohibit social media companies from showing so-called “addictive feeds” to children under 18, unless they obtain parental consent.

The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act defines an addictive feed as one where the content is recommended or prioritized based on information about the user or the user’s device — basically, these are the algorithmic news feeds used by most social apps. “Non-addictive feeds,” a category that includes “feeds listed in chronological order,” would still be allowed. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign the bill; her office has already released a statement praising its passage, along with the passage of a related New York Child Data Protection Act, which prohibits online platforms from collecting or selling personal data from users under 18 without informed consent.

“New York is leading the nation to protect our kids from addictive social media feeds and shield their personal data from predatory companies,” Governor Hochul said. “Together, we’ve taken a historic step forward in our efforts to address the youth mental health crisis and create a safer digital environment for young people.”

NetChoice, a trade group whose members include Google, Meta, and Snap (as well as TechCrunch’s parent company Yahoo), described the SAFE Act as “dangerous and unconstitutional.”

Implementing this bill would require social media companies to verify users’ ages. It would also prohibit platforms from sending notifications related to these feeds between the ages of midnight and 6am without parental consent. Companies that violate the law could face penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

“This is an assault on free speech and the open internet by the State of New York,” said NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age.”

NetChoice’s statement also says it has successfully fought similar bills in Ohio, Arkansas, and California.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Andrew Gournades and Assemblymember Nily Rozic. It’s also supported by New York Attorney General Letitia James. (Hochul, Gournades, Rozic, and James are all Democrats.)

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