(VitalNews.org) – Beginning September 1, social media companies must get Arkansas parents’ permission before registering children under 18 to use their platforms. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the bill on April 12, saying it would “protect kids and empower parents.” She said she hopes the law will allow parents to protect their children from the dangers of social media apps.
The Social Media Safety Act was passed by a Republican supermajority earlier this spring. It requires new social media users in the state to confirm their age; anyone under 18 would need parental permission. Age confirmation will presumably occur when social media companies such as Twitter use a third-party verification service.
Sanders said that social media “can be a great tool,” but it can also pose dangers to children. She highlighted the rising rate of suicide, depression, and social isolation among American teens, which she says has doubled since the mass introduction of social media to the Internet.
Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are wildly popular with minors. Engineered to be compelling (some would say addictive), parents and organizations concerned with child welfare note that social media has made it possible for bullying to carry over after the school day. After all, the platforms are available 24/7 on any phone.
The law takes aim at the most prominent social media companies; it applies only to those with more than $100 million in annual revenue.
But there are numerous loopholes in the bill, SB396, that may limit its scope. Last-minute negotiations on the bill produced an amendment that would exempt companies that exclusively offer subscription-based content. Another portion of the amendment exempts social media that allows users to “generate short video clips of dancing, voiceovers, or other acts of entertainment.”
Since such short content is what platforms like TikTok use as a business model, it is unclear whether the new Arkansas law will affect companies like this.
Companies that offer only video-game-based social networking are also exempt.
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