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    New York Passes Bill Prohibiting Social Media Platforms From Showing Addictive Feeds To Children

    The New York state legislature has passed a bill prohibiting social media platforms from using “addictive” recommendation algorithms for child users. Titled ‘Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act,’ the bill is intended to “protect the mental health of children from addictive feeds used by social media platforms, and from disrupted sleep due to night-time use of social media.” The bill passed the New York Senate on June 6 with unanimous support and will soon be presented before the governor to be signed into law.

    What Does The Bill Say?

    The bill broadly defines an addictive feed as an app that presents or recommends content to users sequentially based on their user history. “Addictive feeds have had an increasingly devastating effect on children and teenagers since their adoption, causing young users to spend more time on social media, which has been tied to significantly higher rates of youth depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm”, argues the bill’s official summary.

    This bill would prohibit social media platforms from providing an “addictive feed” to children younger than 18 without parental consent and prohibits social media platforms from withholding “non-addictive feed” products or services where that consent is not obtained. It would also require apps to acquire parental consent before permitting notifications from such platforms to children between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM, provide parents with an option to restrict access to such apps to children within that time period and place a limit on the overall number of hours a minor spends on a platform. 

    The bill grants the Attorney General, users covered under the act or parents of minors who have been shown addictive feeds the right to bring a civil action against social media companies and receive up to 5 thousand dollars per violation.

    Can It Be Enforced?

    This bill may fundamentally alter the way social media platforms operate within the state by requiring them to come up with an alternate, “non-addictive” feed for minors that would not involve an algorithm based on their user history. This alternate feed also cannot “withhold, degrade, lower the quality, or increase the price of any product.” 

    Further, the social media platforms will have to retain and track the ages of their users so they know who is covered and who isn’t. As the bill is applicable only to the state of New York, they will also have to track their locations. Lastly, there is no clarity on whether the act will apply to every minor user who is only currently present in the state or resides in it, in which case the app will have to verify their address. All of this presents a privacy risk for children. Finally, the act could very easily be circumvented through a VPN.

    The SAFE Act is only the newest in a series of legislative actions taken by various US governments against social media platforms. Last month, the California Senate approved a similar act titled “Protecting Our Kids from Social Media Addiction Act.” These developments come two months after the US Congress passed a bill ordering app stores to delist TikTok and other apps owned by ByteDance for fear of the Chinese government accessing the data of American users. Reportedly, ByteDance would prefer to shut down their US operations entirely rather than selling TikTok and the associated algorithm.  

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    The post New York Passes Bill Prohibiting Social Media Platforms From Showing Addictive Feeds To Children appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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