New York State Legislature Passes Bill to Limit Kids’ Access to ‘Addictive Feeds’

New York’s state legislature has recently approved a groundbreaking bill known as the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act. This legislation aims to restrict social media companies from displaying what are deemed as “addictive feeds” to individuals under the age of 18, unless parental consent is obtained.

An addictive feed is defined by the act as content that is recommended or prioritized based on user information or device data. This primarily refers to the algorithmic news feeds utilized by most social media platforms. Conversely, feeds that are listed in chronological order fall under the category of “non-addictive feeds” and would still be allowed for minors.

Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign the bill into law, alongside the New York Child Data Protection Act, which has also been recently passed. The latter legislation prohibits online platforms from gathering or selling personal information of users under 18 without their explicit consent.

In response to the passage of the SAFE Act, Governor Hochul expressed her support, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding young individuals from potentially harmful social media content. Furthermore, she highlighted the significance of creating a safer digital space for children amid the ongoing youth mental health crisis.

However, not everyone is in favor of the new bill. NetChoice, a trade association representing major tech companies such as Google, Meta, and Snap, has criticized the legislation, labeling it as “dangerous and unconstitutional.” The organization argues that the act infringes on freedom of speech and poses a threat to the open internet.

If enforced, the SAFE Act would necessitate social media platforms to verify the ages of their users and restrict the delivery of notifications related to addictive feeds between midnight and 6am without parental approval. Violations of the law could result in penalties of up to $5,000 per offense for companies.

The bill, championed by State Senator Andrew Gournades and Assemblymember Nily Rozic, has garnered support from New York Attorney General Letitia James. Despite opposition from tech industry representatives, the legislation marks a significant step towards regulating children’s online experiences and protecting their privacy and mental well-being.