On Monday, a federal judge blocked Ohio’s implementation of a new law requiring social media businesses, like Instagram from Meta Platform and TikTok from ByteDance, to get parental approval before letting kids under 16 access their services.
Chief US District Judge Algenon Marbley of Columbia concurred with the trade association for the tech sector, NetChoice, that the legislation infringed upon minors’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
It was the most recent court ruling to overturn a state law intended to safeguard youth online, as federal and state legislators search for solutions to the growing worries regarding the risks that social media pose to children’s mental health.
Dave Yost, the Republican attorney general of Ohio, had maintained that the Social Media Parental Notification Act, which was enacted by the legislature in July, was a lawful safeguard against sexual predators and mental health harm to adolescents.
However, Marbley concurred with NetChoice—a group that includes Facebook and Instagram owned by Meta, Elon Musk’s X, Alphabet’s YouTube, and TikTok—that the regulation was “not narrowly tailored to those ends.”
“A startlingly blunt tool for reducing social media’s harm to children is to forbid minors under sixteen from accessing any content on websites that the Act purports to cover, absent affirmative parental consent,” the author said.
Ohio’s law was placed on hold indefinitely while the lawsuit is ongoing, according to Monday’s verdict. Last month, the judge granted an order temporarily preventing the bill from going into effect on January 15 as planned.
Republican governor of Ohio Mike DeWine referred to the decision as disappointing. “Evidence that social media has a detrimental impact on the mental health of minors, including increases in depression and suicide-related behavior,” he stated in his citation.
“Congress needs to act to protect our country’s children because the federal courts are interpreting federal constitutional law as preventing the state of Ohio from protecting Ohio’s children,” he said in a statement.
A similar social media parental permission law in Arkansas and a children’s digital privacy law in California were blocked by court orders that NetChoice won last year.
Restrictions enacted in Utah are also being challenged.