Internet trade group files lawsuit against Arkansas’ Social Media Safety Act

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,032 views 

NetChoice, a coalition of trade associations, e-commerce businesses, and online consumers, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday (June 29) in the western district of Arkansas against the state for Act 689, the Social Media Safety Act.

The new law, which passed handily in the GOP-heavy state legislature, was supported by Gov. Sarah Sanders. It regulates social media companies and requires age verification from users on social media sites, like TikTok and Facebook.

According to the Social Media Safety Act, users would have to submit a “digitized identification card” that shows they are at least 18 years old. If the user is under 18 years of age, they will need their parents’ permission to use the site. Social media companies will be liable if underage users are on the site without parental approval.

NetChoice said the law violates the U.S. Constitution by restricting First Amendment rights by requiring citizens to hand over private data to use the platforms. NetChoice also contends the law increases the risk of data breaches by requiring a third-party administrator to handle sensitive personal data.

NetChoice is a two-decade old group that includes companies such as Meta, Google, TikTok and Twitter.

“We’re suing Arkansas today to protect First Amendment rights and keep online speech accessible,” said NetChoice Litigation Center Director Chris Marchese. “This law empowers the state to tell Arkansans what types of information they’re allowed to access online, forces them to hand over their most sensitive documents to use the internet, and seizes decision making from parents and families. That is an unconstitutional power grab, and we’re petitioning to put a stop to it.”

“Our complaint also notes how SB 396 [Act 689] disregards existing federal protections for children online, which are outlined in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) and violates the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” a press release from NetChoice said.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said the state will be aggressive in its defense of the new law.

“I look forward to vigorously defending Act 689,” Griffin told Talk Business & Politics.

You can read the lawsuit at this link.