A federal judge blocked Ohio’s law that would have required children under 16 to obtain parental consent before creating social media accounts.

The law was originally scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 15.

Other states have passed similar legislation and also had it blocked by a judge, as happened with Arkansas and California.

The main takeaway: If a law required that social media companies verify the age of its users and blocked those under 18 or under 16 from creating accounts without parental consent, the courts took issue with that. Judges said that the laws were not tailored narrowly enough to solve an issue in the public interest and that blocking users was too broad of a measure to take.

Here’s a closer look at why these laws were blocked.

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Why was Ohio’s social media law blocked?

District Judge Algenon L. Marbley granted tech industry group NetChoice’s request for a preliminary injunction in an order issued Monday. The judge wrote that Ohio’s law had several aspects that were “troublingly vague” and this vague language “would leave many operators unsure as to whether it applies to their website.”

The judge also said the law “does implicate the First Amendment” and concluded that the law is likely to fail strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny requires that a law be written for an identifiable issue in public interest and tailored specifically for that purpose to pass constitutional muster.

“Foreclosing minors under sixteen from accessing all content on websites that the Act purports to cover, absent affirmative parental consent, is a breathtakingly blunt instrument for reducing social media’s harm to children,” the order said. “The approach is an untargeted one, as parents must only give one-time approval for the creation of an account, and parents and platforms are otherwise not required to protect against any of the specific dangers that social media might pose.”

Why was Arkansas’ social media law blocked?

Arkansas signed the Social Media Safety Act into law in April 2023. The act was set to require social media companies to verify the ages of users and check for parental consent before children have accounts. It was also set to clarify liability for “illegal retention of data.”

District Judge Timothy L. Brooks granted the preliminary injunction that NetChoice requested. “Age-gating social media platforms for adults and minors does not appear to be an effective approach when, in reality, it is the content on particular platforms that is driving the state’s true concerns,” Brooks wrote in the order.

Why was California’s social media law blocked?

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AB2273 established the California Age-Appropriate Design Code. This law was set to require companies offering online products or service to default to high privacy settings for children and prominently display privacy information. Companies would not be allowed to use children’s personal information or sell children’s geolocation.

NetChoice also sued the state of California alleging that it violated the First Amendment. A judge also blocked this law. California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a notice of appeal on Oct. 18, 2023.

District Judge Beth Labson Freeman blocked the law on the grounds that it would not pass strict scrutiny. It “flies in the face of a platform’s First Amendment right to choose in any given instance to permit one post but prohibit a substantially similar one.”

“The California legislature unanimously adopted the California Age-Appropriate Design Code to elevate kids’ privacy and safety online,” Bonta said in a release. “In enjoining the law, the court got this one wrong: The Age-Appropriate Design Code is about protecting children’s data, not limiting free speech. In California, we will continue to fight to protect our kids from those who seek to exploit their childhood experiences for profit, and we urge the Ninth Circuit to vacate the preliminary injunction.”

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