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Social media giants unite, sue Ohio over parental consent mandate

A trade group representing major tech companies including TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook and Instagram operator Meta Platforms sued Ohio on Friday over the state’s pending law that requires children to get parental consent to use social media apps.

The law was part of an US$86.1 billion state budget bill that Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed into law last July. It is set to take effect on January 15.

The administration pushed the measure as a way to protect children’s mental health, with Republican Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted saying at the time that social media was “intentionally addictive” and harmful to kids.

The NetChoice trade group filed its lawsuit against Republican Attorney General Dave Yost in US District Court for the Southern district of Ohio. It seeks to block the law from taking effect.

The litigation argues that Ohio’s law – which requires social media companies to obtain a parent’s permission for children under 16 to sign up for social media and video gaming apps – unconstitutionally impedes free speech, and is overbroad and vague.
The law also requires social media companies to provide parents with their privacy guidelines, so that families can know what content will be censored or moderated on their child’s profile.

“We at NetChoice believe families equipped with educational resources are capable of determining the best approach to online services and privacy protections for themselves,” Chris Marchese, director of the organisation’s litigation centre, said in a statement.

“With NetChoice v Yost, we will fight to ensure all Ohioans can embrace digital tools without their privacy, security and rights being thwarted.”

Husted, who leads Ohio’s technology initiatives and championed the law, called Friday’s lawsuit “cowardly but not unexpected”.
“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 in a statement.

He also alleged the tech companies know their algorithms are harming children “with catastrophic health and mental health outcomes”. South China Morning Post

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