Silicon Valley Battles States Over New Online Safety Laws for Children

Lawsuits filed by NetChoice, which represents companies including TikTok and Meta, have stalled protection efforts in three states.

Last summer, Ohio enacted a social media statute that would require Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube to get a parent’s consent before permitting children under age 16 to use their platforms.

But this month, just before the measure was to take effect, a tech industry group called NetChoice — which represents Google, Meta, Snap, TikTok and others — filed a lawsuit to block it on free speech grounds, persuading a Federal District Court judge to temporarily halt the new rules.

The case is part of a sweeping litigation campaign by NetChoice to block new state laws protecting young people online — an anti-regulation effort likely to come under scrutiny on Wednesday as the Senate Judiciary Committee questions social media executives about child sexual exploitation online. The NetChoice lawsuits have rankled state officials and lawmakers who sought tech company input as they drafted the new measures.

“I think it’s cowardly and disingenuous,” Jon Husted, the lieutenant governor of Ohio, said of the industry lawsuit, noting that either he or his staff had met with Google and Meta about the bill last year and had accommodated the companies’ concerns. “We tried to be as cooperative as we possibly could be — and then at the 11th hour, they filed a lawsuit.”

Social media platforms said that some of the state laws contradicted one another and that they would prefer Congress to enact a federal law setting national standards for children’s online safety.

NetChoice said the new state laws impinged on its members’ First Amendment rights to freely distribute information as well as on minors’ rights to obtain information.

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