US judge extends temporary block on Ohio’s Social Media Parental Notification Act enactment

US Judge extents the temporary block of Ohio’s Social Media Parental Notification Act, signed by Governor DeWine in July 2023, requiring parental consent for minors under 16 on social media.

Social media icons

US Judge for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division has ordered to extend temporarily block the enactment of Ohio’s Social Media Parental Notification Act (SMPN Act). The first decision to temporarily block the enactment of the SMPN was ordered in January 2024.

In July 2023, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the SMPN Act into law, which required social media companies to obtain parental permission for children under 16 to use social media. Additionally, the SMPN Act sets responsibility on social media platforms for developing procedures when verifying whether a user is under 16.

In response, the non-government organization advocating for safe internet and freedom of expression filed a lawsuit against Ohio for enacting the SMPN Act, claiming it violated free speech under the US’s First Amendment rights. Namely, NetChoice argued that:

  • The provisions in the SMPN Act are vague,
  • They impose content-based restrictions and
  • They impose an impermissibly overinclusive and underinclusive ban on minors’ access to First Amendment-protected speech.

The Court found that, indeed, the SMPN Act provisions are focused on regulating content and that “foreclosing minors under sixteen from accessing all content on websites that the Act purports to cover, absent affirmative parental consent, is a breathtakingly blunt instrument for reducing social media’s harm to children. As a result, the Court found that the SMPN Act violated First Amendment rights and agreed with NetChoice that such laws are unconstitutional, thus temporarily blocking its enactment.

Why does it matter?

This case highlights the responsibility of social media platforms in protecting minors online. At the same, laws such as the SMPN Act could have far-reaching implications on free speech rights as they are mainly based on controlling content. Thus, legislators must find a balance between free speech online and ensuring effective protection for children.