Teens in Texas are about to face some changes in their online activities. After Utah and Louisiana, Texas is also about to require parental consent for kids under 18 to access social media. This new law is called HB 18, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed it on Wednesday. And it’s definitely coming, taking effect on September 1, 2023.
New parental controls and age verification
Under HB 18, online platforms will need to verify the ages of all minors (like they do now) and obtain parental consent before allowing kids to create an account. If platforms fail to comply, they could face legal action from the state attorney general or private lawsuits from parents who report violations. And as you may remember, it wouldn’t be the first time.
“Online platforms have been collecting data and manipulating our children’s online behavior,” the Texas House Republican Caucus tweeted on Thursday. This bill is supposed to put control over their children’s online activities into parents’ hands. Well, at least only until they let the kids have their social media accounts.
Online platforms have been collecting data and manipulating our children's online behavior. Hear from State Representative @ShelbySlawson on how House Republicans are empowering parents online to protect their children. #txlege
— Texas House Republican Caucus (@TXGOPCaucus) June 14, 2023
On top of verifying the ages of minors and obtaining parental consent, online platforms will also be responsible for creating new parental controls. The law requires them to develop a portal to communicate with parents about their minor’s online activity. Additionally, platforms must make it easier for parents to monitor their child’s behavior and control their activity on the platform.
Requirements from the social media
To protect minors from harmful content, this law makes platforms responsible for restricting minors’ access to materials that promote suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, substance abuse, stalking, bullying, harassment, grooming, trafficking, child sexual abuse, and other forms of exploitation or abuse. This includes developing a strategy to maintain a comprehensive list of harmful material and blocking it from display to confirmed minors. Platforms will need to hire actual people to review and verify the effectiveness of content filters, rather than relying solely on algorithms. If platforms fail to meet these requirements, they will face periodic audits to ensure that content filters are functioning optimally and effectively protecting children.
The new Texas law also requires platforms to make their algorithms more transparent to users. They must clearly disclose in their terms of service or privacy policies how algorithms organize and filter content. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri already talked about it several times, although, to be honest – I still don’t quite get it. It’s still vague, and he offered a very basic explanation – there’s so much more lying underneath.
As I mentioned, Louisiana and Utah passed a similar bill. As The Verge reports, they might also come to Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio.