Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton Backs New York Legislation to Protect Children on Social Media

"As a New Yorker and a grandmother of young children, I strongly support the SAFE For Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act"

ALBANY, NY (05/22/2024) (readMedia)-- Today, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her support for two New York bills: the SAFE For Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act, landmark legislation designed to protect children and teens on social media. Secretary Clinton joins parents, educators, nurses, and advocates from across the state who are urging the New York State Legislature to pass these critical bills before the end of the legislative session in Albany on June 6th.

"As a New Yorker and a grandmother of young children, I strongly support the SAFE For Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act, and I urge my friends in Albany to pass these crucial bills without delay. Families across New York have waited too long for necessary protections that shield children from the known harms caused by many social media platforms. Kids and teens gain enormous benefits from being online, and, as these two bills would ensure, they should be able to continue being able to connect and learn online without facing the very dangerous, harmful, and sometimes deadly consequences," said Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton.

James P. Steyer, Founder & CEO of Common Sense Media, one of the leading organizations backing these two bills in New York, welcomed the Secretary's support:

"We greatly appreciate Secretary Clinton's support for these critical bills. The Secretary is a lifelong children's advocate, having served as a staff attorney and then board member for the Children's Defense Fund and, most recently, delivering keynote remarks at the Common Sense Children's Summit in January in San Francisco. Her opinion as a grandmother, a New Yorker, and an expert legislator is greatly welcomed in this crucial moment for kids and teens in New York."

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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 recent Harvard study found that social media companies made $11 billion alone from underage users in 2022.

New York lawmakers, parents and advocates are calling for 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.
  • Allow users and parents to opt out of minors accessing social media platforms between the hours of 12AM and 6AM.
  • 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. Allow any parent/guardian of a covered minor to sue for damages of up to $500 per user per incident, or actual damages, whichever is greater.

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.

About Common Sense Media

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