Social Media Giants Fight Back to Protect Children’s Free Speech in Ohio Lawsuit

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A trade group representing major social media sites has filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Ohio to block a new state law requiring verifiable parental consent for children under the age of 16. The law, known as the Parental Notification by Social Media Operators Act, is set to take effect on January 15. Trade group NetChoice, which includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms as clients, argues that the law is unconstitutional. This is not the first time NetChoice has taken legal action against states that attempt to regulate social media usage and internet privacy.

The lawsuit claims that the Ohio law infringes on minors’ freedom of speech and is too vague in its language. Chris Marchese, the director of the NetChoice Litigation Center, stated that families should have the ability to determine the best approach to online services and privacy protections with the help of educational resources.

On the other hand, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, who actively supported the law, criticized the trade group’s lawsuit as “cowardly.” Husted believes that social media companies are causing harm to children through addictive algorithms, resulting in negative health and mental health outcomes.

Under the new law, certain online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok would be required to include parental consent as part of their terms of service for teenagers and children who want to use their platforms. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office disclosed that the law may also encompass gaming platforms and shared message boards that either target children or are expected to be accessed by them.

To verify parental consent, online operators would have several options available, including signing a digital form consenting to the terms of service, using online payment systems, calling a toll-free number, participating in a video conference, or presenting a government-issued identification. Once consent is granted, operators must provide written confirmation to the parent or guardian. If consent is not given, access to the platform must be denied.

The Attorney General’s Office emphasized that failure to provide notification or terminate a child’s access could result in parents contacting the website operator. Upon receiving a complaint, the operator would have 30 days to terminate the child’s access. However, if the operator fails to comply, parents can file a complaint.

Lieutenant Governor Husted urged NetChoice to drop the lawsuit in order to move forward with the implementation of the Social Media Parental Notification Act, which aims to involve parents in the decision-making process.

In summary, a trade group representing major social media platforms has filed a lawsuit to prevent the enforcement of an Ohio law requiring parental consent for children under 16 to use social media. The law is set to take effect on January 15 and has faced opposition from NetChoice, which argues that it violates the free speech rights of minors. Lieutenant Governor Husted has labeled the lawsuit as “cowardly” and stressed the need for parents to be involved in their children’s online activities. The new law would require platforms to include parental consent as part of their terms of service, with various verification methods available. Failure to comply could result in parents lodging complaints and potentially terminating a child’s access to the platform. Husted has called for the trade group to drop the lawsuit and allow the law to be implemented.