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New York’s “SAFE” Digital ID Act For Kids Threatens Online Free Speech and Privacy

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Legislators in the state of New York are pushing two new bills to regulate the internet, specifically as it pertains to the way minors use social media – Assembly Bill A8148A and Senate Bill S7694A.

If it succeeds, the law would be the first of its kind in the US, and likely represent a blueprint for other states.

But both acts, dubbed Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids, have drawn criticism for bringing up constitutional issues tied to First Amendment rights.

Meanwhile, Governor Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers are said to be close on agreeing on the text of the bills, which are presented as designed to prohibit tech platforms from providing addictive feeds to minors (replacing them with content shown in chronological order), and monetizing their data, among other things.

But how would these platforms ascertain if somebody’s a minor? By requiring that their parents go through the digital ID age verification before they can provide consent on behalf of their children to use a particular social network in a particular way.

And this is where the legislative intent goes against the First Amendment, critics say, as having all online activity tied to a government-issued ID chills free speech and opens data privacy issues.

Somewhat ironically, given their open disregard of the First Amendment in other scenarios, those critics include some of the biggest tech companies.

Constitution and freedom of expression aside – their bottom lines would suffer if the bills pass, and so they find themselves as (no doubt, for both parties) uneasy bedfellows with those who consistently campaign against age verification, manipulated feeds, and data harvesting.

A trade group funded by Meta, Amazon, Google, Uber, etc., called the Chamber of Progress, is now vocal in opposing what they call “a rotten bill” while dismissing the reported deal on the wording as no more than “a fresh coat of paint.”

Nevertheless, the vote could take place as early as by the end of this week.

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