Pennsylvania Social Media Bill Will Require Parental Consent For Under-16 Users


Youth outlook

The Pennsylvania House passed a bill on Wednesday aiming to increase parental oversight of children’s social media usage with a 105-95 vote. Sponsored by Representative Brian Munroe (D-Bucks), the Pennsylvania social media bill requires social media platforms to verify the age of new users and obtain parental consent for users under 16. It also prohibits companies from selling minors’ data to third parties or using it for targeted advertising.

Munroe argued that this social media bill 2024 is long overdue to protect against social media effects on teens, children and parents in an increasingly digital world. However, the bill has sparked criticism from free speech advocates and social media lobbying groups due to similarities with other state laws blocked by courts for First Amendment violations.

A key concern, highlighted by Liz Randol of the ACLU’s Pennsylvania chapter in the PA social media bill is a section requiring platforms to create policies allowing users to report “hateful” posts that may humiliate individuals or groups. Companies would face penalties if they don’t respond adequately. Randol compared this provision to a similar New York law that was blocked for compelling companies’ speech.

Munroe acknowledged the New York ruling but remains confident that his bill aligns with anti-discrimination rules. “We’re not telling these social media companies what policy to make,” he said. Instead, he emphasized that it’s not the legislature’s role to anticipate court decisions.

Critics are also concerned about enforcing the bill’s age verification requirements, arguing that it could lead to privacy violations by forcing platforms to collect more user data. The Computer & Communications Industry Association, representing major social media companies, submitted a letter opposing the bill on these grounds. This is only one of several legislations currently being endorsed to control social media use among the young.

Despite opposition, Munroe believes the bill balances privacy and protection. He amended out an earlier proposal that would have required companies to monitor private conversations, following criticism from lawmakers and groups like Planned Parenthood. Munroe emphasized that as a parent of two daughters, parents have the right to oversee their children’s social media use.

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