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Vivek Ramaswamy Calls For a Social Media Ban For Under 16s

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Republican presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy is pushing for the implementation of an outright social media ban for under 16s.

As shown in a video of a campaign event taken Friday, his premise is that safeguarding children is a duty that transcends party lines.

Ramaswamy argued that the legal restrictions holding young people back from addictive practices such as smoking until they reach 18 should also apply to the fervent usage of addictive social media platforms. He boldly captioned the video on his social media, urging a decisive “Ban it.”

However, banning cigarettes for minors is not the same as banning forms of speech, something that the government is prohibited from getting involved in due to citizens’ First Amendment protections.

Courts generally apply a balancing test when evaluating the constitutionality of restrictions on speech, considering both the interests of the government in restricting the speech and the impact of those restrictions on the individuals’ rights to free expression.

For minors, this balancing test often involves additional considerations, such as the government’s interest in protecting the welfare of children. But the government must still demonstrate that any restrictions are narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest without unnecessarily infringing upon individual liberties.

Laws that would ban social media for minors would likely face strong First Amendment challenges, as they could be seen as overly broad or not narrowly tailored to achieve a specific governmental interest. To pass constitutional muster, such laws would likely need to be carefully crafted and, even then, they would be subject to intense legal scrutiny.

It’s unlikely that Ramaswamy’s plans would ever survive a First Amendment challenge but the proposals still give insight into how he sees online regulation.

Ramaswamy’s argument that it should be the state, not parents, that decides what’s right for their kids, is contradicting his other free speech and personal freedom stance on other issues.

Beyond the infringement of personal freedoms, a government-enforced ban opens the door for further state interventions into the private lives of its citizens. If the government starts regulating social media usage among minors, what is to stop it from targeting video games or other forms of expression next?

Not only does this proposal curb personal freedoms, it would require platforms to check digital IDs to police it.

The implementation of digital ID checks as a method of enforcing a ban on social media access for minors would raise a slew of civil liberties and privacy concerns that go far beyond the original intent of protecting young people from potential addiction. Such a system would create a surveillance infrastructure that poses serious risks to individual privacy, the scope of which could easily be expanded to facilitate other forms of government oversight and control.

Related: Why anonymity has to be protected to enable true free speech

Requiring digital ID checks to prove the age of the social media user would necessitate the storage of a significant amount of sensitive information, including identity documents, browsing history, and potentially even biometric data. This data would be a prime target for hackers, putting individuals at an elevated risk of identity theft, financial fraud, and other forms of cybercrime. Moreover, the creation of such a comprehensive database would be a tempting resource for government agencies, which may be inclined to use the data for purposes far removed from the original intent of preventing underage social media use.

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