Ohio Social Media Age Verification and Parental Consent Law Temporarily Blocked

By neub9
3 Min Read

On January 9, 2023, an Ohio federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Ohio’s Parental Notification by Social Media Operators Act, Ohio Rev. Code § 1349.09(B)(1) (the “Act”), which was approved in July 2023 and was set to go into effect on January 15,2024. The Act requires parental consent for children under 16 to set up social media and online gaming accounts, and mandates platform operators to provide parents with information on content moderation features.

The decision comes as there is increased focus on children’s data privacy in the U.S. and abroad, with some states attempting to regulate children’s privacy at the state level and the FTC proposing changes to the COPPA regime at the federal level. Legal challenges have been brought in multiple courts against these laws, including by NetChoice, a national trade association representing big tech companies, which has won similar cases in California and Arkansas. In the Ohio case, NetChoice filed a motion for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on the grounds that the Act unconstitutionally limits parental consent for children under 16 to access protected speech.

The Act applies to “operator[s]” of “online website[s], service[s], or product[s]” that “target[] children” or are “reasonably anticipated to be accessed by children,” who have users in Ohio and allow typical social media and online gaming platform activities. The Act requires verifiable parental consent for children under 16 to sign up for these accounts, as well as information on the platform’s content censoring or monitoring features. The court reviewed the Act’s potential violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of various platforms and users, considering factors such as immediate irreparable harm to tech companies, minors, the Act’s vagueness, and the potential restrictions on First Amendment-protected speech.

In the judgment, the court expressed concerns about the Act’s vagueness and its primary focus on parental consent for accessing certain content, rather than addressing specific dangers of social media once the child’s account is created. The court commented on the Act’s “untargeted” approach and its lack of additional protections for children using social media after their account is created.

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