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Judge Issues Injunction Against Arkansas Social Media Law

A U.S. district court judge has issued a temporary injunction against an Arkansas law that mandates social media companies to use third-party vendors for age verification checks on new users or face substantial fines.

An aerial view of the Arkansas state capitol building in Little Rock.
Just days before a law preventing minors from accessing social media platforms was set to take effect in Arkansas, a federal judge stepped in with a temporary injunction blocking the rule.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the Social Media Safety Act in April and the new law was to go into effect Sept. 1, but before it could U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks granted a preliminary injunction on behalf of NetChoice — a tech advocacy group that represents TikTok, Facebook parent Meta, and X (formerly known as Twitter).

The new law requires that social media companies utilize third-party vendors to perform age verification checks for any users creating new accounts in Arkansas — essentially requiring minors under 18 to get 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 press conference in April. “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.”

Access regulations for social media among minors have been a contentious topic of late, with some calling for regulations to protect vulnerable, young users from myriad online risks. To do this, they advocate for age restrictions and content monitoring to limit exposure to inappropriate content, cyber bullying and potential exploitation.

Critics, meanwhile have a different point of view entirely and argue that enforcing such regulations is not only difficult, but brings privacy and censorship implications that could drive minors to use unmonitored alternative platforms.

Brooks essentially ruled that NetChoice does have standing to constitutionally challenge the law, with their litigation team arguing the legislation discourages free speech and undermines user privacy rights.

Several other states are considering similar methods to regulate child social media usage, with child privacy concerns at the top of mind.

“There is a penalty should the third-party vendors do something with that data other than the purpose of verification,” Sanders said in the April press conference.

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

Arkansas would have been just the second state to pass a law restricting social media use by children. Utah passed similar legislation in March that is set to go into effect in 2024.