Two federal judges have issued preliminary injunctions, temporarily blocking the enforcement of controversial child online safety laws in Texas and Arkansas. The Arkansas law, known as the Social Media Safety Act, is broader, aiming to prevent minors from creating accounts on platforms earning over $100 million a year without parental permission.
Tech industry trade group NetChoice, representing major companies like Google, Meta, and TikTok, filed a lawsuit against the law, alleging it’s unconstitutional and places a heavy burden on digital platforms. Meanwhile, a narrower Texas law seeking to restrict minors from accessing adult content online was temporarily blocked by a district judge.
Furthermore, the decisions in Arkansas and Texas may have broader implications, as other states, including California and Utah, consider similar laws. U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks in Arkansas sided with NetChoice, stating that the law failed to address the identified harms properly. He argued that age gating on social media platforms might not be an effective approach and that focusing on content moderation would be more practical.
Civil liberties advocates praised the rulings, emphasizing that the government should not decide which speech is out of bounds, even in the case of minors.
Despite the court decisions, the attorneys general of both Arkansas and Texas expressed their commitment to defending the laws. NetChoice, on the other hand, welcomed the rulings, asserting that these laws would have created state-approved internet experiences while demanding private information from users.
The temporary injunctions prevent the laws from taking effect immediately, and whether Arkansas and Texas will appeal remains uncertain, raising questions about the ongoing debate surrounding online child safety laws and their potential impact on free speech.