AG James, Sen Gounardes Join Parents & Advocates to Celebrate New York's Landmark Child Internet Safety Laws

With bi-partisan support, the New York State Legislature passes first-in-the-nation legislation to protect kids online from addictive algorithms and data collection

NEW YORK, NY (06/10/2024) (readMedia)-- Today, Attorney General Letitia James, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, and Assemblymember Nily Rozic joined New York parents, educators, advocates, and more for a virtual press conference to celebrate the New York State Legislature passing the SAFE for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Privacy Act, legislation designed to protect children and teens on social media from addictive algorithms and exploitative data collection. Parents, educators, and advocates from across the state were instrumental in passing the two pieces of legislation, standing firm against Big Tech's $1 million campaign to oppose these crucial measures. The legislation passed last week in the State Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support, and now heads to Governor Kathy Hochul's desk for signature.

A recording of the virtual press conference is linked here.

New York is the first state in the country to pass legislation that regulates one of social media's most harmful tools: addictive algorithms. Addictive feeds, which are designed to harness personal data to serve users content to keep them on the platform for as long as possible, have increased the addictive nature of social media platforms and heightened the risk to young users' health and wellbeing. Under the SAFE for Kids Act, social media platforms are prohibited from using addictive algorithms to show content to users under the age of 18, unless a parent or guardian offers verifiable consent. In other words, social media platforms can't pummel children with content they didn't request to see.

"New York is sending a clear message to Big Tech: your profits are not more important than our kids' privacy and wellbeing. As the father of two young kids, this win is personal, and I am particularly grateful to the young people, parents, educators, and organizations from across the state who fought back against the industry's lobbying and lies, and demanded a safer digital world," said State Senator Andrew Gounardes. "Today would not have been possible without the extraordinary collaboration of Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, Assemblymember Rozic and legislative leadership. This isn't just a win for New York's children - our new laws pave the way for the rest of the country to follow suit. We beat Big Tech, and you can too."

"We must do all that we can to protect our kids from the harmful influence of addictive algorithms and unchecked data collection, and the passage of the SAFE for Kids Act and the NY Child Data Protection Act are the straightforward first step in that effort," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. "These new laws signal that New York is taking the lead in putting New Yorkers' safety and privacy at the forefront. I thank Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, and Senator Gounardes for their collaborative efforts in order to protect young people in the digital age."

"Our children are enduring a mental health crisis, and social media is fueling the fire and profiting from the epidemic," said? Attorney General Letitia James. "The legislation my team worked on and supported along with bill sponsors Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic will help address the addictive features that have made social media so insidious and anxiety producing. I applaud Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and the legislative majorities for achieving this agreement and for agreeing that protecting children's mental health must be a top priority. New York state is once again leading the nation, and I hope other states will follow suit and pass legislation to protect children and put their mental health above big tech companies' profits."

Children also face unique risks when their data is collected online. While other states have enacted laws to limit the personal data that online platforms can collect from minors, no such restrictions currently exist in New York. Children are vulnerable to having their location and other personal data tracked and shared with third parties. The New York Child Data Protection Act will prohibit all online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent.

"This is a big win for kids and families in New York, and potentially across the country," said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, which played a leading role in passing the two bills. "Parents and families have had enough of Big Tech's negligence and profiteering off of the decline in young people's well-being. Thankfully, New York leaders have taken action. And other states, including California, can and should follow their lead. Momentum is on our side. We want to express our profound gratitude to Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes, and Assemblymember Rozic for being champions for New York's kids and families. These bills will make a difference in their lives."

"There is nothing more sacred than safeguarding the mental and physical well-being of children, and New York is making a significant step forward in protecting our youth in the digital age. The National Urban League is proud to have played a role in the movement to pass these landmark bills, and we are deeply grateful for the leadership shown by New York's Governor, Attorney General, and legislative leaders, who prioritized the safety of children over corporate profits. This legislation will change lives and serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow," said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League.

This legislative approach, backed by Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James, does not restrict children's access to content on social apps; it simply allows them to choose how the content they view will be delivered to them. And while there are critical First Amendment protections forbidding discrimination on the basis of viewpoint or content, this legislation regulates technology, not speech. The legislation aims to empower young people to explore, learn, and stay connected through social media on their terms, without being pushed into harmful content, and is designed to pass Supreme Court scrutiny.

"From the bottom of my heart, I thank Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes, Assemblymember Rozic, and Governor Hochul for leading the charge to pass the SAFE for Kids Act and New York Child Protection Act. No other family should lose a child to the dangers of social media and this legislation is an important and historic first step in holding social media companies accountable for the extreme harms they do to children," said Norma Nazario, NYC Parent.

"On behalf of parents across our state, we express our immense gratitude to the legislators and advocates who worked tirelessly to pass this groundbreaking legislation to protect our children from social media's harmful algorithms and invasive data collection," said Julianna Arnold, NY Parent and member of Parents for Safe Online Spaces. "Social media's algorithms push harmful and often deadly content to innocent and vulnerable children and teens just like my daughter-content promoting the use and sale of illicit and lethal drugs, self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide. This legislation is a crucial step toward safeguarding our children and giving control back to parents. Now, we urge Senator Schumer to take action on the national level and bring the Kids Online Safety Act to the Senate floor for a vote, making America a leader in protecting kids online."

"As a mother to my 15-year-old daughter, I have witnessed the negative effects that social media can have on our kids' mental health, and how quickly it takes effect. Once my daughter began using social media at age 13, I was shocked to see how quickly it affected her sense of self and confidence, impacting her mood and anxiety. New York's landmark laws will protect teens just like my daughter, shielding them from algorithm-driven feeds that are designed to keep them endlessly scrolling and exposed to harmful content. Lawmakers from across the state heard the pleas from thousands of parents and young people, and took action to rein in Big Tech. Now it's time for the rest of the country to follow suit," said Bernice Tsai, NYC parent.

NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research Executive Director Rose Pierre-Louis said, "We know the harm that addictive social media practices can have, especially on our most vulnerable populations. These common-sense reforms will help make New York a leader in addressing the crisis among our young people, particularly girls and youth in communities of color. The efforts by community activists and researchers to bring these issues to the forefront of public attention have been essential to supporting elected officials like State Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic in their work to hold social media companies accountable. Thanks to Attorney General James and Governor Hochul for publicly supporting these efforts to show that New York State stands united in protecting our young people from harmful social media practices."

"The passage of this groundbreaking legislation is a major victory for the movement of parents and other concerned adults fighting back against the epidemic of media addiction among our children," said Julie Scelfo, founder and Executive Director of Mothers Against Media Addiction (MAMA). "With kids experiencing so much emotional distress from social media's addictive algorithms and harmful content, we are grateful that New York lawmakers have joined the chorus of parents saying, 'Enough is enough!' These bills, which shield kids from these addictive algorithms and safeguard their privacy online, can serve as a model for other states looking to address social media's impact on young people. We look forward to Governor Hochul signing these bills into law to help us give our children back the childhood they deserve."

"The New York Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) is thrilled with the passage of the SAFE for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act, as we cannot opt out of child protection – neither off nor online," said Muna Heaven, Legal Counsel for the NYSPCC. "These historic bills are essential towards safeguarding our children from online exploitation. The NYSPCC is proud to be a part of this collective effort and celebrates the State Legislature's actions to shield and protect New York's most vulnerable – our children."

"There is nothing more paramount than addressing the mental health crisis facing New York's future, our youth. NAMI-NYS is grateful that New York's leaders have taken tremendous steps in advancing many crucial measures needed to support our youth and meet them where they are. This includes leading the nation in working to address the role social media is playing in eroding the mental wellness of our youth. We applaud Governor Hochul, Attorney General James and our legislative leaders for making social media less addictive for our youth while also protecting their privacy. Their leadership is paving the way towards NAMI-NYS's goal of creating communities that care," said Sharon Horton, Executive Director of NAMI-NYS.

Founder of the Social Media Victims Law Center Matthew P. Bergman said, "Today New York took a historic step to protect our kids from the ravages of social media addiction and abuse. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic, New York parents can sleep easier tonight knowing their kids are better protected from the dangerous social media products they are encountering. While we are still a long way from holding social media companies fully accountable in court for the carnage their platforms are inflicting on our kids, the SAFE for Kids Act and New York Child Protection Act is an important step in the right direction."


Parents in New York, and across the country, are noticing an immediate hit to their childrens' mental health once they begin using social media. Multiple independent studies reveal a distressing link between prolonged social media use and heightened rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm among youth. Yet, the federal government last passed a law to protect youth online in 1998.

Several states have introduced and passed laws aimed at restricting harmful content, or platforms all together. But attempting to regulate content is legally complicated, often becoming entangled in the court system, and fails to address the root cause: social media companies purposely using addictive algorithms to keep kids online longer in order to serve them ads and profit from their doom scrolling. A Harvard study found that social media companies made $11 billion alone from underage users in 2022.

New York lawmakers, parents and advocates worked to pass the Stop Addictive Feeds for Kids Act (SAFE) and the New York Child Data Protection Act, both sponsored by Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Nily Rozic, and backed by Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James, to regulate two of social media's most harmful tools against youth: addictive algorithms and data collection.

Bill #1: Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act

This SAFE for Kids Act will require social media companies to restrict the addictive features on their platforms that most harm young users. Currently, platforms supplement the content that users view from the accounts they follow by serving them additional content from accounts they do not follow or subscribe to. This content is curated using algorithms that gather and display content based on a variety of factors. However, algorithmic feeds have been shown to be addictive because they prioritize content that keeps users on the platform longer. Addictive feeds are correlated with an increase in the amount of time that teens and young adults spend on social media and significant negative mental health outcomes for minors.

To address this problem, the legislation will:

  • Ban social media platforms from offering addictive feeds to any persons under 18 without parental consent. Instead, users will receive a chronological feed of content from only the users that they already follow or feeds of generally popular content – the same way that social media feeds functioned before the advent of addictive feeds. Users may also search for specific topics of interest.
  • Prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications to minors from 12AM and 6AM without verifiable parental consent.
  • Authorize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to bring an action to enjoin or seek damages or civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

This legislation will only impact social media platforms with feeds comprised of user-generated content along with other material that the platform recommends to users based on data it collects from them. For example, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube would all be subject to this legislation.

Bill #2: The New York Child Data Protection Act

With few privacy protections in place for minors online, children are vulnerable to having their location and other personal data tracked and shared with third parties. To protect children's privacy, the New York Child Data Protection Act will prohibit all online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18 for the purposes of advertising, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. For users under 13, this informed consent must come from a parent. The bill authorizes the Office of the Attorney General to enforce the law and may enjoin, seek damages, or civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.