Governor Hochul Announces Nation-Leading Legislation to Restrict Addictive Social Media Feeds and Protect Kids Online

New York Attorney General Letitia James, Governor Kathy Hochul, and bill sponsors Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Nily Rozic today announced that nation-leading legislation to combat addictive social media feeds and protect kids online has been signed into law. The bill signing ceremony included union leaders, advocates, parents, and children who all worked to help these bills advance during the legislative session. The first bill signed into law, Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) For Kids Act will require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. The second bill signed into law, the New York Child Data Protection Act, will prohibit online sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. With this newly signed legislation, New York has established the nation’s most stringent protections to safeguard kids on social media.

“Addictive feeds are getting our kids hooked on social media and hurting their mental health, and families are counting on us to help address this crisis,” said Attorney General James. “The legislation signed by Governor Hochul today will make New York the national leader in addressing the youth mental health crisis and an example for other states to follow. I applaud the sponsors, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic, for working with my office to introduce and advance this legislation, and I thank the legislative leaders for their support of these historic bills. As we move forward with the rulemaking process, my office will work tirelessly to defend these new laws to protect New York children.”

“Young people across the nation are facing a mental health crisis fueled by addictive social media feeds – and New York is leading the way with a new model for addressing the crisis and protecting our kids,” Governor Hochul said. “By reining in addictive feeds and shielding kids’ personal data, we’ll provide a safer digital environment, give parents more peace of mind, and create a brighter future for young people across New York. I’m grateful to Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic for their partnership on advancing this historic legislation.”

“New York is sending a clear message to Big Tech: your profits are not more important than our kids’ privacy and wellbeing. As a father of two young kids, this victory is personal, and I am particularly grateful to the young people, parents, educators, and organizations from across the state who stood up to some of the most powerful companies in the world and demanded a safer digital world,” said bill sponsor Senator Andrew Gounardes. “Today would not have been possible without the partnership of Governor Hochul and Attorney General James and their steadfast commitment to protecting children from the harms of social media, and I thank the Governor for signing these two critical bills into law. This milestone isn’t just a win for New York’s children — our new laws pave the way for the rest of the country to follow suit. We beat Big Tech, and you can too.”

“Over two decades after child online privacy laws were last updated, the signing of these bills into laws signals that New York is taking the lead in putting New Yorkers’ safety and privacy at the forefront,” said bill sponsor Assemblymember Nily Rozic. “We are taking decisive action to protect our kids from the harmful influence of addictive algorithms and unchecked data collection by enacting the SAFE for Kids Act and the NY Child Data Protection Act. I thank Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, and Senator Gounardes for their unwavering collaborative efforts in order to protect young people in the digital age.”

The legislation signed today addresses critical challenges facing young people. According to an advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General, recent research shows that adolescents who spend more than three hours per day on social media face double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Additionally, a recent report from the Pew Research Center found that six out of 10 teens say they feel they have little or no control over the personal information that social media companies collect about them.

The SAFE for Kids Act

Addictive feeds, or algorithmically driven feeds, facilitate unhealthy levels of social media use. This legislation will require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. Unless parental consent is granted, users under 18 will not receive addictive feeds. Notably, the SAFE for Kids Act is the first bill of its kind to be signed into law in any state across the nation.

Under this law, kids may still use social media. For example, they can continue to search for specific topics of interest or subscribe to creators but will not be subject to algorithmically driven feeds that promote unhealthy levels of engagement. The law will also prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications regarding addictive feeds to minors from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. without parental consent. The law will authorize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to bring an action to enjoin violations of the new law as well as seek civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, among other remedies. And finally, it calls for the establishment of acceptable age verification and parent consent methods, to be determined by OAG as part of a rulemaking process.

The New York Child Data Protection Act

This legislation will prohibit online sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. It also authorizes OAG to enforce the law and enjoin and seek damages or civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

“New York is standing up for our kids by taking on the tech companies and requiring heightened privacy for our children as well as greater protection from the addictive and predatory features of social media platforms,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “We applaud Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senator Andrew Gounardes, and Assemblymember Nily Rozic for protecting our children.”

“Protecting children online in the midst of a mental health crisis is common sense, and we are proud that New York is leading the way,” said Melinda Person, President of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). “The legislation advanced by Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic, and signed by Governor Hochul, will take historic action to address the most dangerous aspects of social media. NYSUT educators across the state made their voices heard to support these bills, and we will continue to do everything in our power to safeguard the mental health of our students.”

“When the state’s most powerful leaders join forces to prioritize the well-being of kids and families over Big Tech’s profits, amazing things can happen,” said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, the lead advocacy organization that helped pass the SAFE for Kids Act and the NY Child Data Protection Act. “Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes, and Assemblymember Rozic deserve all New Yorkers’ gratitude for fighting for these groundbreaking bills and enacting them into law. Common Sense looks forward to using this win for kids’ online safety and privacy as a model for the nation.”

The legislation signed into law today is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers online and address concerns with social media companies. In March 2024, Attorney General James led a bipartisan coalition of 41 attorneys general in urging Meta to address the rise of Facebook and Instagram account takeovers by scammers and frauds. In October 2023, Attorney General James and a bipartisan coalition of 32 attorneys general filed a federal lawsuit against Meta for harming young people’s mental health and contributing to the youth mental health crisis. In July 2023, she led a multistate coalition of attorneys general to defend the federal government’s ability to communicate with social media companies about dangerous online content. In April 2023, Attorney General James released a comprehensive guide to help businesses adopt effective data security measures to better protect New Yorkers’ personal information. Attorney General James also joined a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general urging Facebook to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. In October 2022, Attorney General James investigated and released a report on the role online platforms played in the Buffalo mass shooting.

This legislation was drafted with the support of Assistant Attorneys General Nathaniel Kosslyn and Jina John, and Senior Enforcement Counsel Jordan Adler, all of the Bureau of Internet and Technology, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Kim Berger. The Bureau of Internet and Technology is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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