Federal Judge Blocks Ohio Law Requiring Parental Consent for Children’s Social Media Use

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order to halt the enforcement of a pending Ohio law that would require children to obtain parental consent before using social media apps. The order, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley, came after NetChoice, a trade group representing major tech companies such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Meta, filed a lawsuit arguing that the law violates free speech rights and is overly broad and vague.

Judge Marbley stated that while the intention to protect children is commendable, it is unlikely that Ohio will be able to demonstrate that the law is appropriately tailored. He deemed the law’s provision to prevent minors under the age of 16 from accessing all content on covered websites without parental consent to be an overly blunt tool for reducing harm from social media.

The Ohio law is similar to measures enacted in other states and was scheduled to take effect on January 15. It not only requires social media companies to seek parental permission for children under 16 to sign up for their platforms but also mandates the companies to provide parents with privacy guidelines, ensuring they are aware of what content will be censored or moderated on their child’s profile.

The Social Media Parental Notification Act was included in a state budget bill signed into law in July by Republican Governor Mike DeWine. The administration promoted the measure as a way to safeguard children’s mental health, with Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted asserting that social media is intentionally addictive and detrimental to children.

Expressing disappointment with the judge’s ruling, Lt. Gov. Husted criticized the tech companies involved in the lawsuit, accusing them of participating disingenuously in the legislative process and lacking interest in protecting children. Governor DeWine also lamented the decision, highlighting the documented negative effects of social media on children’s mental well-being and noting that the law aimed to empower parents to play a role in their children’s digital lives.

NetChoice, which has previously achieved legal victories against similar restrictions in California and Arkansas, filed the lawsuit against Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

In summary, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order to halt the enforcement of an Ohio law requiring parental consent for children to use social media apps. The judge deemed the law to be overly broad and not narrowly tailored. The law, which is similar to measures in other states, was scheduled to take effect in January. Tech companies represented by NetChoice argue that the law infringes on free speech rights. The case is ongoing in the U.S. District Court.