Ohio's parental permission law for social media put on further pause
A recent state law that would have required social media and gaming sites to get parental permission before letting any Ohioan younger than 16 onto their platforms won’t go into effect any time soon, a federal district court judge ruled Monday afternoon.
U.S. Southern District of Ohio Judge Algenon Marbley granted internet trade association NetChoice a preliminary injunction, putting the state’s Social Media Parental Notification Act on further pause as legal proceedings play out. The ruling came after a Feb. 7 hearing in the case.
In its original January lawsuit, NetChoice argued Ohio’s law was too broad and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Its members include Facebook and Instagram parent Meta Platforms, Snapchat parent Snap Inc., and TikTok, among other big names in technology.
Marbley largely agreed in his ruling Monday, writing that he finds the state law “troublingly vague.”
“The Act is not narrowly tailored,” he writes. “Foreclosing minors under sixteen from accessing all content on websites the Act purports to cover, absent affirmative parental consent, is a breathtakingly blunt instrument for reducing social media’s harm to children.”
The Social Media Parental Notification Act passed as part of the state budget in the summer, and was set to take effect Monday, Jan. 15. Just days before that, NetChoice sued.
Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and other Ohio legislative leaders advocated for the law to protect children’s mental health. NetChoice, however, has said its members already have protections in place—and that parents should be the ones deciding for their kids about whether a platform is okay to use.
In an email statement Monday afternoon, Husted said his team is “resolved to escalate our efforts.”
“It's disappointing, but it will not deter us from our responsibility to protect children from exploitative social media algorithms that are causing a crisis of depression, suicide, bullying and sexual exploitation among our children,” Husted wrote in the statement. “These companies could solve this problem without passing new laws, but they refuse to do so.”
Since the lawsuit is based on constitutionality at the federal level, DeWine called on Congress to act.
Monday was not the first time NetChoice had been granted a preliminary injunction over similar provisions.
“This is the fourth ruling NetChoice has obtained, demonstrating that this law and others like it in California and Arkansas not only violate constitutional rights, but if enacted, would to achieve the state’s goal of protecting kids online,” a spokesperson for NetChoice wrote in an email.
The spokesperson continued, writing NetChoice will “look forward” to the laws being struck down in their entirety.