Civil rights groups have warned that such legislative efforts could stifle freedom of expression — by requiring adults, as well as minors, to verify their ages using documents like drivers’ licenses just to set up and use social media accounts. Requiring parental consent for social media, they say, could also hinder young people from finding support groups or important resources about reproductive health or gender identity.
The Supreme Court has overturned a number of laws that aimed to protect minors from potentially harmful content, including violent video games and “indecent” online material, on free speech grounds.
Social media companies said they had instituted many protections for young people and would prefer that Congress enact federal legislation, rather than requiring companies to comply with a patchwork of sometimes contradictory state laws.
Snap recently became the first social media company to support a federal bill, called the Kids Online Safety Act, that has some similarities with California’s new law.
In a statement, Snap said many of the provisions in the federal bill reflected the company’s existing safeguards, such as setting teenagers’ accounts to the strictest privacy settings by default. The statement added that the bill would direct government agencies to study technological approaches to age verification.