New York Lawmakers Push to Empower Parents against Addictive Social Media Feeds

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In a bold move, lawmakers from the Empire State are working to finalize an innovative piece of legislation intended to give parents the power to protect their children from the ensnaring grip of social media. The proposed law would allow caretakers to block algorithmically curated social media feeds that some experts say perpetually entice young users to surrender unending hours to the digital realm.

Governor Kathy Hochul, along with Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, have been the driving forces behind this unprecedented legislation since October, despite formidable opposition from the tech industry. The latest version of the bill has undergone key amendments, notably discarding specifications that would dictate the amount of time children could spend on any particular site. With the conclusion of the legislative session imminent, Albany lawmakers are fervently striving to see their proposal become law.

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These curated feeds often operate as digital dopamine fixes for children, according to Assembly sponsor Nily Rozic, another ardent Democrat championing the cause. Rozic argues that regulation is urgent to control these design features expertly crafted to capture the elusive attention of impressionable minds.

This legislative endeavor in New York emerges as a part of an overarching national effort to tame the rampant use of social media among the younger demographic. Other states, such as Florida and Utah, have recently enacted related laws, with mixed measures of consent and age verification playing central roles in their approaches.

Proponents of the New York Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) For Kids Act drive home a crucial point – the sole intention of the bill is to guard the mental and emotional wellbeing of young people by shielding them from digital baits enticing endless interaction. They propose a shift from feeds populated by addictive content, linked to users’ previous interactions, to a simple, chronological flow of posts from accounts the users already follow.

Rozic clarified that the legislation does not aim to regulate content per se but to rein in the pervasive algorithms that fuel and amplify the addictive nature of social media.

Detractors of the bill, notably the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, vehemently argue that it could inadvertently infringe upon children’s privacy and lead to internet corporations collecting more user information. Albert Fox Cahn, head of the privacy advocacy group, disapprovingly labeled lawmakers’ efforts as a fantasy, insisting that proving ages without jeopardizing privacy remains an unattainable goal.

NetChoice, a prominent tech industry trade group, accused New York of overreach, arguing that the government was trying to supplant parental authority and judgment. Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice, vehemently declared the proposal as unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment by censoring New Yorkers’ ability to access content online and denying webpages’ editorial rights.

The bill further stipulates that digital platforms should not send notifications to minors between midnight and 6 a.m. without parental consent. Noncompliance with these regulations could cost companies a fine of $5,000 per violation.

If approved by the Assembly and Senate, Governor Hochul, who has unequivocally expressed her support for the regulatory measures, is likely to sign the bill into law. She has also signaled the importance of further regulation on data collection at this juncture.

Drawing parallels to historic public health campaigns, Governor Hochul concluded her op-ed in the New York Post, “We stopped marketing tobacco to kids. We raised the drinking age. And today, we’re fighting to protect kids from the defining problem of our time.”

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.