Tech Trade Group Sues Ohio Over Social Media Consent Law

Source: Unsplash/Solen Feyissa

NetChoice, a trade association representing major technology companies such as Meta, TikTok, and Snapchat, filed a lawsuit on December 10, 2021 against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. The lawsuit aims to block House Bill 110, signed into law in July, from taking effect on January 15, 2022.

NetChoice believes the law unconstitutionally violates free speech and is overly broad. The legislation requires social media companies to obtain parental consent for users under 16 before allowing them to create accounts. It also mandates that companies provide parents with privacy policies so families understand how profiles will be monitored and what content may be censored.

NetChoice v. Yost Lawsuit Background

NetChoice, a trade group representing major technology companies, filed a lawsuit against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in December 2021 seeking to block a new law regulating children’s social media use from taking effect.

Source: X/NetChoice

The law, championed by Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted as a means to protect children’s mental health and well-being, requires individuals under the age of 16 to obtain parental consent to create accounts on social media and gaming platforms.

NetChoice’s Advocacy for Privacy and Security

According to Chris Marchese, Director of NetChoice’s Litigation Center, “We at NetChoice believe families equipped with educational resources are capable of determining the best approach to online services and privacy protections for themselves.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The group advocates empowering families to make their own choices regarding their children’s online activities and relationships with technology companies. On January 14, 2022, NetChoice filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, seeking to block the enforcement of Ohio Senate Bill 210.

NetChoice Vs California

In 2020, NetChoice won a lawsuit against California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which would have regulated how companies design online services and collect children’s data.

Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted NetChoice’s motion for a preliminary injunction, preventing enforcement of the law. The court ruled that the act violated the First Amendment and was preempted by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

NetChoice Vs Arkansas

NetChoice also prevailed in a 2021 lawsuit against Arkansas’ “Online Harms Prevention Act.” The law would have prohibited social media companies from using certain features, like “auto-play” or “infinite scroll,” that allegedly encourage overuse.

Source: MSN

However, the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued a preliminary injunction, finding the law likely violated the First Amendment. The court held that the act restricted more speech than necessary to achieve the government’s interest in curbing technology overuse.

The Ohio Lawsuit Unfolds

According to NetChoice, the law unjustly limits free speech and is overly broad and vague. The trade group believes that parents should be trusted to make their own decisions regarding their children’s online activities and privacy based on available educational resources.

Source: Wikipedia

Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, the law’s leading proponent, called the lawsuit “cowardly but not unexpected.” Husted alleges that technology companies deliberately design their algorithms to addict and harm children. “In filing this lawsuit, these companies are determined to go around parents to expose children to harmful content and addict them to their platforms,” Husted said.

Harmful Effects on Children’s Health and Well-being

The law’s proponents claim that social media companies intentionally design their platforms to be addictive, especially for children and teenagers. The law’s backers, including Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, allege that social media algorithms and business models can have “catastrophic health and mental health outcomes” on children and teens.

Source: Flickr/Lars Plougmann

By requiring parental consent and transparency about data collection practices, the law aims to give families more control and oversight over their children’s social media use in order to curb potential negative effects.

Understanding the Impact of Algorithms

The law mandates that technology companies provide parents and legal guardians with their privacy policies and content moderation practices so that families can make informed decisions about what types of profiles and experiences are appropriate and safe for their children.

Source: Unsplash/Solen Feyissa

Supporters argue this policy grants Ohio families more power to determine how to approach their children’s privacy, security, and well-being in the digital age. However, critics counter that the law threatens minors’ First Amendment rights and places an undue burden on tech companies.

Catastrophic Health and Mental Health Outcomes

Proponents argue social media companies intentionally design platforms to manipulate human psychology, especially in young users, through techniques like likes, hearts, and other rewards that trigger dopamine responses.

Source: Shutterstock

While research on the long term effects of social media use is still emerging, some studies have linked frequent social media use in teens to increased risks of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and FOMO (fear of missing out). Lawmakers argue this policy will curb potential technology addiction and other issues in Ohio’s youth.

NetChoice’s Perspective on Privacy

NetChoice advocates for digital rights and protecting people’s ability to utilize online tools safely. According to Chris Marchese, director of NetChoice’s litigation center, “We at NetChoice believe families equipped with educational resources are capable of determining the best approach to online services and privacy protections for themselves.”

Source: Picpedia

The group maintains that the law improperly censors and moderates content on children’s social media profiles. The law requires social media companies to obtain parental consent for users under 16 to create accounts and mandates that companies provide parents with privacy guidelines.

Potential Impacts on Digital Landscape

If allowed to take effect, Ohio’s social media consent law could have significant ramifications on the technology industry and regulation of digital platforms. As NetChoice argues in their lawsuit, the law may infringe upon free speech rights by limiting how companies can engage users under 16.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, supporters counter that the law protects children by giving parents more control and oversight of social media use. The outcome of NetChoice v. Yost could shape how states approach regulation of technology companies and governance of digital spaces.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

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