What's at Stake
Arkansas’s so-called “Social Media Safety Act” stifles freedom of expression online by requiring users to verify their ages and, if under 18, obtain explicit parental consent before using social media.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a proposed amicus brief in support of a challenge to Arkansas’ Act 689, also known as the Social Media Safety Act. The law, which is set to go into effect in September, stifles freedom of expression online by requiring all users, including adults, to verify their ages before using existing social media accounts or opening new ones. It also requires any users who are minors to obtain explicit parental consent for social media usage.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the Social Media Safety Act into law in April 2023. If allowed to go into effect, the law will require the users to provide personal information, such as a driver’s license or photo ID, to companies or applications that purport to be able to verify their ages.
This legislation threatens the free speech rights of social media users, forcing us to hand over our private data or lose the ability to participate in robust online conversation. Individuals of all ages rely on social media for political speech, artistic expression, advocacy, access to the news, and more. Age-verification requirements burden users who may want to engage in anonymous speech, who do not have government ID, and who are otherwise concerned about their privacy and security. The law’s parental consent requirement would also impermissibly burden the First Amendment rights of young people, who are often at the forefront of movements, trends, and technologies.
For decades the courts have struck down similar laws and attempts at age verification passed in the name of protecting kids online. Where less restrictive alternatives exist, the government cannot impose age verification on adults in the name of protecting kids. The same is true of requiring parental consent for kids’ social media use, since parents may have authority over their own kids, but the government cannot impose its view of what parents ought to want on all families. The ACLU is actively fighting similar attempts to burden free speech and free expression online at both the state and federal levels.
Memorandum Opinion & Order Preliminarily Enjoining the Social Media Safety Act
Brief Amici Curiae of the American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, & Electronic Frontier Foundation
Date Filed: 07/24/2023