The Arkansas House agrees that social media users must prove their age
Little Rock, Arkansas – A bill that Arkansas lawmakers moved forward on Wednesday would require children to get permission from their parents before they could use social media sites. This would make Arkansas the second state to put in place restrictions that critics say raise privacy and enforcement issues.
The restrictions were passed by a vote of 82 to 10 in the House, which is mostly made up of Republicans. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is also a Republican, is in favor of them. The Senate, which passed an earlier version of the bill, has to vote again on the plan before it can go to Sanders’ desk.
“It is a bill designed to create a level of protection for our young people,” Republican Rep. Jon Eubanks, the bill’s House sponsor, said before representatives approved the measure without any debate.
The plan is like a law that Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed last month, which was the first of its kind in the country. A number of other states are thinking about taking similar steps, which backers say will protect children.
Sanders said last month that she was in favor of the Arkansas bill, which would require people under 18 to prove their age and get permission from their parents. The move would make it so that social media companies have to hire a third party to check people’s ages.
Parents and lawmakers are getting more and more worried about how kids and teens use social media and how these sites affect their mental health.
“This is just common sense. One ill-advised moment online can mean a lifetime of pain offline,” Sanders said at a news conference announcing the legislation. “Kids are not prepared for that kind of responsibility, and they’re certainly not prepared for the world of dangerous content that big tech companies make readily available.”
The rules would only apply to social media sites that bring in more than $100 million a year. The law would go into force in September if Sanders signs it.
People who don’t like these kinds of rules say they worry about privacy and point out that every user would have to prove their age.
“People in Arkansas should not have to hand over their driver’s license just to access free websites,” Jason Kelley with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a statement. “By forcing people to do so, the law essentially stops people in the state from accessing vast parts of the web unless the government approves it.”
Critics have also asked if the law could have unintended effects, especially on young people who are already going through a mental health disaster.
“There are far better ways to solve this problem than legislating the government-mandated collection of sensitive personal information, which could unintentionally limit access to online communities that provide health and education resources and increase opportunities for fraudulent actors to seek sensitive data from consumers,” Ruthie Barko, executive director for the central U.S. for TechNet, a group of technology CEOs and senior executives, said in a statement.