This bill proposes to “card” people before they use social media.
The bill would require social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube to verify that users are 18 or have consent from parents or guardians to use the sites. Likely methods of age verification under this bill would include uploading a government-issued form of identification or age verification through “facial age estimation” artificial intelligence technology employed by a social media platform.
All accounts created on or after January 1, 2019 will be designated as “youth accounts” unless the social media company verifies that the account holder is not a minor or a parent or guardian of the account holder requests the company remove the “youth account” designation from a minor’s account.
Social media accounts designated as “youth accounts” could not be accessed during a curfew from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am, and social media platforms would be required to restrict the type of advertising and direct messaging targeted at “youth accounts.” The bill also forces platforms to give parents access to minors’ accounts.
Framed as a necessary step to protect minors from the harmful effects of social media, this legislation threatens the free speech rights of all Wisconsinites by robbing users of anonymity, posing privacy and security risks, and potentially blocking some people from being able to use social media at all.
Similar legislation has been signed into law in Arkansas and Utah. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have supported a legal challenge to the Arkansas age-verification law on First Amendment grounds.
Individuals of all ages rely on social media for political speech, artistic expression, advocacy, access to the news, and more. Imposing age-verification requirements burdens users who may want to engage in anonymous speech, who do not have government ID, and who are otherwise concerned about their privacy and security. The law’s parental consent requirement would also infringe on the First Amendment rights of young people, who are often at the forefront of movements, trends, and technologies.