Trade Group Launches Lawsuit Against Ohio’s New Social Media Law, Citing Unconstitutionality

Columbus, Ohio (AP) – A trade group representing multiple social media sites has filed a lawsuit against the state of Ohio over its new law requiring companies to obtain verifiable parental consent for children under 16. The law, known as the Parental Notification by Social Media Operators Act, is set to go into effect on January 15, but NetChoice, the trade group, is seeking to halt its implementation.

NetChoice, which counts companies like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and X among its clients, argues that the law is unconstitutional. The trade group has previously taken legal action against other states that have passed similar social media and internet privacy regulations.

The lawsuit contends that the Ohio law violates minors’ free speech rights and is unconstitutionally vague. NetChoice believes that families should have the capacity to determine the best approach to online services and privacy protections for themselves.

Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, a supporter of the law, criticized the lawsuit, calling it “cowardly.” Husted believes that these social media companies are harming children through addictive algorithms, leading to 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 before allowing teenagers and children to use their platforms. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has stated that the law may also extend to gaming platforms and shared message boards that target or are accessible by children.

Parental consent can be verified through various methods, including signing a digital form, using a credit card or online payment system, calling a toll-free number, connecting through video conference, or checking a form of government-issued identification. Operators must then send written confirmation of the account to the parent or legal guardian upon receiving consent. If consent is not given, operators must deny the child access to the platform.

If online operators fail to provide notification or terminate a child’s access in violation of the law, parents can contact the website operator, who has 30 days to terminate the child’s access. If the operator fails to comply, parents have the option to file a complaint.

NetChoice’s lawsuit seeks to block the implementation of the law, urging the trade group to drop the legal battle. Lieutenant Governor Husted believes that the Social Media Parental Notification Act is necessary to involve parents in the decision-making process regarding their children’s online activities.

As the legal battle unfolds, the outcome will have significant implications for social media platforms and the regulation of online activities involving minors in Ohio.