Senator Gounardes Applauds NYC Lawsuit to Hold Social Media Companies Accountable

Sen Gounardes joins Rocco Vertuccio on NY1 to speak on New York's fight to protect teens online; "Litigation and legislation must go hand in hand in the fight against Big Tech," says Senator Gounardes

NEW YORK, NY (02/16/2024) (readMedia)-- Yesterday, Mayor Adams escalated New York's fight to protect teens online by announcing a lawsuit against five major social media companies - Tik Tok, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, to hold them accountable for their role in the teen mental health crisis. State Senator Andrew Gounardes joined Rocco Vertuccio on NY1 this afternoon to discuss the Mayor's decision and his own state legislation, citing the importance of litigation and legislation in New York's efforts to regulate social media. Senator Guonardes is calling on New York lawmakers to pass the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation for Kids Act (SAFE) and the New York Child Data Protection Act. These bills would create critical protections for children and young adults online by restricting the collection of their personal data and prohibiting the use of addictive algorithms. Click here for more information on the social media legislation.

Click here to watch Senator Gounardes' NY1 interview.

"Mayor Adams' lawsuit is a major step in holding social media companies accountable and protecting teens online. To tackle Big Tech, we need the force of both litigation and legislation because we know they won't self-regulate. With $11 billion in ad revenue from underage users in 2022 alone, they have 11 billion reasons to resist any change. That's why the Mayor's lawsuit and my two bills are going to force companies to do the right thing -we are prepared to fight for New York families," said State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

Senator Gounardes' bipartisan legislation is backed by Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, and over fifty state lawmakers committed to protecting New York's young adults from addictive algorithms and big tech's privacy breaches. Governor Hochul, who named the protection of teens online the "defining challenge of our time" has included the two pieces of legislation as part of her budget agenda.


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.- but not any social media platform that doesn't purposefully choose to set an algorithmic feed by default.

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.