Legal Showdown: Tech Industry Trade Group Files Lawsuit Against Arkansas Over Social Media Law

By Brad Anderson Brad Anderson has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on July 1, 2023

NetChoice, a trade group for the tech industry, has sued the state of Arkansas in federal court to overturn the state’s new law that mandates children get parental permission before making social media accounts. The complaint, which was filed on Thursday, argues that the regulation suppresses users’ right to free speech in violation of the First Amendment. This change is the result of growing concerns about the impact of social media on the mental health of today’s youth.

Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law in April a mandate that social networking services utilize independent verifiers to confirm the age of all new users. The bill, which takes effect on September 1st, imposes onerous responsibilities on social media businesses and significantly burdens the First Amendment rights of both kids and adults.

The case claims that blocking individuals who are unable to present evidence of age from accessing popular websites violates their right to free expression. As the argument goes, the law is unlawful if it limits free expression in some circumstances but not others. Facebook’s parent corporation Meta, TikTok, and Twitter are all part of a coalition called NetChoice that is challenging the ban on constitutional grounds.

A new regulation in Arkansas is very similar to a rule that was just signed into law in Utah and is the first of its kind in the country. New Utah legislation, meanwhile, won’t take effect until March of 2024. NetChoice has long opposed regulations of this type. The trade group opposed a California law passed the previous year that would have prevented digital companies from exploiting the personal information of minors for harmful profiling purposes.

Tim Griffin, the Republican attorney general who is being sued, has vowed to defend the law aggressively. Concerned about the effects of excessive internet use on young people’s mental health, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders supported the measure and had faith in Griffin’s ability to defend it. She claims that social media businesses have been able to exploit children for years, despite the fact that doing so has been shown to be detrimental to their emotional well-being. I vowed to make Big Tech responsible for protecting children and providing parents a greater voice.

Until their yearly income in Arkansas reached $100 million, sites like LinkedIn, Google, and YouTube would be immune from the rule. If social media platforms are proven to be rejecting demands to check users’ ages, they could be subject to fines of $2,500 each incident. After a user is granted access to a social networking site, the company or its third-party service provider is prohibited by law from retaining any of the user’s personally identifying information.

Some governments are considering adopting California-style legislation in response to citizens’ worries about the safety of their personal information and well-being on social media. However, industry lobbying groups claim that such rules violate consumers’ constitutional rights, making it probable that more states will follow the lead of Arkansas in enacting NetChoice-like legislation. The outcome of these lawsuits will have far-reaching consequences for how social media platforms are regulated and how users, especially children, are protected.

First reported on AP News

Originally published on ReadWrite.

By Brad Anderson Brad Anderson has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Brad Anderson is a syndicate partner and columnist at Grit Daily. He serves as Editor-In-Chief at ReadWrite, where he oversees contributed content. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase.

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