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Arkansas Follows Utah’s Lead With Social Media Accessibility Law

The state is now the second in the nation with legislation requiring parental consent for child social media usage. It follows closely behind a March law signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs Senate Bill 549 April 11, 2023.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs Senate Bill 549 April 11, 2023.
Image courtesy state of Arkansas.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders this week signed legislation meant to limit social media access for children under 18 years old.

The new law, the Social Media Safety Act, requires social media companies to utilize third-party vendors to perform age verification checks for any users creating new accounts beginning in September — essentially requiring minors under 18 to gain parental consent before using certain social media platforms.

“While social media can be a great tool and a wonderful resource, it can have a massive negative impact on our kids,” Sanders said during a Wednesday press conference. “Seeing the increase that we have, not just here in Arkansas, but across the country when it comes to things like depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide rates — particularly among teenage girls — you start to pay attention to the things contributing to that.”

Arkansas is the second state to pass a law restricting social media use by children. Utah passed similar legislation in March.

With several other states considering similar methods to regulate child social media usage, privacy concerns have steadily seeped into the national discussion as critics question how and if third-party vendors can capitalize from the personal verification information collected.

“There is a penalty should the third-party vendors do something with that data other than the purpose of verification,” she stated during the press conference.

Under the Arkansas law, social media companies will also be held responsible if they ignore or knowingly violate the age verification requirement, facing the possibility of a $2,500 fine for each violation.

The new law, also known as SB396, does include amendments that allow certain media entities to circumvent the new age verification requirement if they fall under unique criteria. Those include media organizations that “exclusively” offer subscription content; social media platforms that permit users to “generate short video clips of dancing, voiceovers, or other acts of entertainment”; and companies that “exclusively offer” video gaming-focused social networking features.

Cloud storage services, business cybersecurity services or educational technology services that collect less than 25 percent of their total revenue from running a social media platform are also excluded.

According to Sanders, the restrictions would only apply to social media platforms that generate more than $100 million in annual revenue.