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 September 2, 2023

Federal judge blocks Arkansas' age verification law for social media users

In April of this year, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed a law that would require age verification for the use of social media platforms. 

In a shocking update, an Arkansas-based federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama blocked the  Social Media Safety Act (Act 689), ruling that the "content" of social media platforms is the state's primary concern, reported The Blaze.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks ruled that the language of the bill made it too "vague" to determine which social media companies would be subjected to the age verification requirement.

Because of that line of thinking, Judge Brooks placed an injunction on the bill on the day it was set to go live.

The Blaze noted:

Judge Brooks issued a 50-page ruling that claimed the legislation's definition of "social media company" lacked guidelines to determine what a platform's primary purpose was. The judge claimed it makes companies "choose between risking unpredictable and arbitrary enforcement ... and trying to implement the Act's costly age-verification requirements."

In his ruling, Judge Brooks took aim at the state's expert, Tony Allen, CEO of Age Checked Certification Scheme of the United Kingdom, claiming Allen gave a contrary answer in one example regarding Snapchat.

"He responded in the affirmative, explaining that Snapchat's 'primary purpose' matched Act 689's definition of a 'social media company' (provided it was true that Snapchat also met the Act's profitability requirements). When the Court asked the same question to the State's attorney later on in the hearing, he gave a contrary answer--which illustrates the ambiguous nature of key terms in Act 689."

Brooks added, "The State's attorney disagreed with Mr. Allen--his own witness--and said the State's official position was that Snapchat was not subject to regulation because of its 'primary purpose.'"

He went on to argue that because each social media company has different features for users to create content, the bill was too vague in determining which companies would need to follow the new age verification rules.

Notably, the injunction came in the wake of a request from NetChoice Litigation Center, arguing that the bill violated Americans' First Amendment free speech rights.

The group is composed of the usual Big Tech players, including Meta, Twitter, TikTok, Yahoo, and Google.

Social media users responded to the injunction with mixed reactions. Some believe it was a win for free speech, others believe it keeps children in danger online.

"Our society should be able to protect children from proven exploitation by social media," one X user wrote.

Written By:
Ryan Ledendecker

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