The Law and Business of Social Media
April 03, 2024 - Artificial Intelligence, Section 230 Safe Harbor, Social Media Policy

Social Links: April 2024

As we reported in 2023, Utah was the first state in the nation to enact laws limiting minors’ use of social media. In early March 2024, Republican Governor Spencer Cox effectively repealed and replaced the previously enacted legislation in an effort to fend off court challenges from a number of social media companies and industry groups. The new laws require social media companies to verify the ages of their users and disable certain features on minors’ accounts, but do not include the parental consent requirements from the earlier legislation.  

Utah also recently enacted legislation that imposes liability on companies for use of AI that violates consumer protection laws if those companies don’t properly disclose the use of AI. The new law also establishes the state’s Office of Artificial Intelligence Policy, and the Artificial Intelligence Learning Laboratory Program, both of which are designed to analyze and research AI technology.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed Bill HB3, prohibiting any child under 14 from opening social media accounts, and requiring that children between 14 and 16 obtain parental consent to open accounts. Supporters such as Florida Republican Speaker Paul Renner praised the bill, citing the harmful effects of social media on minors, while detractors such as NetChoice’s vice president and general counsel Carl Szabo raised concerns over the bill’s impact on data collection, privacy, and security for all citizens, not just minors.

California also is examining account verification in an effort to curb the spread of misinformation to California voters. S.B. 1228 would require social media platforms to verify users with large followings to help the public determine and distinguish between content that is created by an actual person and fake content that is created using AI or other means.

In New York, a recent measure that would restrict how social media companies use algorithms to serve content targeted to children is meeting with significant resistance from social media platforms and tech industry groups, as well as from civil rights organizations concerned about privacy and groups that work with youth in marginalized populations. Some key New York lawmakers are raising doubts that the measure will be included in the final state budget.

At the federal level, President Biden and the Office of Management and Budget just issued a government-wide policy that will require “federal agencies to test artificial intelligence tools for potential risks and designate officers to ensure oversight, actions intended to encourage responsible adoption of the emerging technology by the US government,” according to Bloomberg Law. This policy has the potential to impose sweeping safeguards across a number of federal agencies, including those responsible for transportation and healthcare.

In an update on a case that we reported on previously, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected fashion designer Hayley Paige Gutman’s bid to reclaim sole access to her Pinterest and Instagram accounts (@misshayleypaige) from her former employer, JLM Couture. The court denied Gutman’s request for reconsideration pending resolution of the underlying ownership questions following remand from the Second Circuit.

And finally, if you follow tech news at all, you will be aware that noted technology journalist, podcaster, and author Kara Swisher has a new book out. Kara certainly doesn’t need any promotional help from our little blog, but we were interested to hear her comments about one of our favorite topics, Section 230, during her appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher and The View. Swisher, who has researched, covered, and commented on technology for decades, frequently criticizes the lack of regulation around the tech industry.

On The View, Swisher noted the absence of guardrails for tech companies and said that Section 230 “gives them complete immunity from liability.” On Real Time, she stated “Do you know how many regulations there are specifically addressing tech companies? Zero…. And the one that does – Section 230 – which is widely debated…it gives them broad immunity.” We here at Socially Aware don’t necessarily agree with Kara’s sweeping characterization of the Section 230 immunity (as we have reported, the safe harbor is subject to many limitations), but we remain big fans of her work.