New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signs social media bill: “Our kids are in distress”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a bill into law targeting addictive social media feeds for children and teens, saying ahead of the bill’s signing that “our kids are in distress.” 

“They’re not living carefree lives because they are being held captive to powerful forces outside their own control — algorithms that are intentionally addictive, intended to pull them in and keep their attention,” Hochul told CBS News in an exclusive interview ahead of the bill’s signing. 

The “Safe for Kids Act,” which Hochul signed Thursday, requires social media companies to restrict “addictive feeds” for social media users under the age of 18. It would also bar notifications from social media platforms related to the feeds between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. without parental consent. And it would require new age verification and parental consent tools to be set by the state’s attorney general. 

Hochul said the measure targets algorithms in particular because “in order to liberate our children, we have to get right to the source of the trauma that’s being inflicted on them.” 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul CBS News

But a group representing tech companies has pushed back, arguing that the law will violate the Constitution’s First Amendment by censoring free speech online. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, told CBS News in a statement that while it doesn’t support every aspect of this bill, it supports legislation requiring app stores to obtain parental approval to obtain apps. TikTok declined to comment. 

The Democratic governor said  that although the approach is “novel,” she added that “we’ve checked to make sure we believe it’s constitutional.”

Hochul said that with the change to the law, the social media companies will be put “on notice.”

“The first start is to just change the law, put the companies on notice that it’s a new day in New York,” she said. “We’re here standing with our children.”

The new law is set to take effect 180 days after New York Attorney General Letitia James solidifies its exact rules and guidelines. James can then fine social media platforms that are out of compliance up to $5,000 per violation. 

The development comes as related issues have gained traction elsewhere in recent days, amid a broader push to address social media use among children. The U.S. surgeon general earlier this week suggested that Congress should create a warning label, like it would for addictive products like cigarettes, on social media for teens. And the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school system in the country, voted to ban students from using cell phones during school hours. 

At the bill signing on Thursday, Hochul said “other states should start paying attention to New York,” adding that while she isn’t holding her breath waiting for a federal solution, a national solution is important.

“Congress can and should act,” she said. “But until such time, we’ll lead the nation.”

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