Columbus, Ohio — A federal judge on Monday extended a blockade of an Ohio law that would require children under 16 to obtain parental consent to use social media apps, amid a challenge judicial proceedings continue.
U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction blocks the law from taking effect while a lawsuit filed earlier this month by NetChoice works its way through the courts. NetChoice is a trade group representing TikTok, Snapchat, Meta and other major tech companies. The group is fighting the law, seeing it as overly broad, vague and an unconstitutional barrier to free speech.
The law, which was originally scheduled to take effect Jan. 15, is similar to those passed in other states, including California and Arkansas, where NetChoice has won court cases.
In his ruling, Marbley said NetChoice is likely to prevail on its First Amendment free speech arguments.
“There is no indication that the State disapproves of the type of content designed to appeal to children – cartoons and the like,” he wrote. “‘Websites that children can access’ is not a topic or topic. Indeed, while the platforms covered contain some topics likely to be of interest to children, most also contain topics ‘as diverse as thought human.”
The law would require companies to obtain parental permission to access social media and gaming apps and provide their privacy guidelines so families know what content would be censored or moderated on their child’s profile.
The social media parental notification law was part of an $86.1 billion budget bill that Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law in July. The administration pushed the measure as a way to protect children’s mental health, with Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted saying at the time that social media was “intentionally addictive” and harmful to children.
Following Monday’s decision, Husted said the state is evaluating its next steps.
“This is disappointing, but it will not distract us from our responsibility to protect children from exploitative social media algorithms that are causing a crisis of depression, suicide, bullying and sexual exploitation among our children” , he said in a press release. “These companies could solve this problem without passing new laws, but they refuse to do so. Because social media companies won’t be responsible, we must hold them accountable.”
But Marbley pointed out that Ohio law is not structured to prevent children from exploring the Internet once they have received parental permission, and that it does not appear to attempt to limit the functionality of individual browsers. social media – such as “infinite scrolling” – which have been cited as the most damaging.
“The approach is not targeted, as parents only need to give approval once to create an account, and parents and platforms are otherwise not required to protect against specific dangers what social media could present,” he said.
The judge also called it “raising eyebrows” that the law makes an exception allowing children to access “established” and “widely recognized” news media without defining what that means, and prohibits children from access product reviews but not service or art reviews.
NetChoice filed suit in January against state Attorney General Dave Yost in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Marbley issued a temporary injunction shortly afterward.
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