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Kentucky bill would regulate minors’ social media use, require parental authentication

031323_Josh Calloway sports betting bill_Courtsey Legislative Research Commission
LRC Public Information
Republican Rep. Josh Calloway, of Irvington, is sponsoring a bill in the Kentucky House that would regulate the use of social media by minors.

Proposed Kentucky legislation follows a national push to regulate the use of social media by minors, requiring users to verify their age and parents to authorize the child’s account.

A bill in the Kentucky House would regulate the use of social media by minors, requiring parents to send authentication documents to the company before their child can create an account.

House Bill 450 was filed Thursday by Republican Reps. Nick Wilson of Williamsburg and Joshua Calloway of Irvington. Their press release on the bill said the legislation was needed to protect children from being subjected to predators, bullying and harassment online.

“They're using algorithms that target children,” Calloway told Kentucky Public Radio Friday. “And all this bill is saying is, whatever interaction that you're going to have with my child through this means, I just want to be in the middle of it and know what's going on.”

They filed the bill the day after U.S. senators grilled social media company executives over the lack of protections for children on their platforms. A Senate bill regulating companies at the federal level has bipartisan support, while many states are advancing their own bills to do so.

Under the Kentucky bill, social media companies would be responsible for verifying the age of existing or new account holders in the state, with users mandated to prove they are at least 18 years old. The types of authentication required would include government-issues IDs and financial documents.

Someone under the age of 18 could still create an account, but their parent would have to authorize it in a notarized form attesting under the penalty of perjury that they are the child’s parent or guardian, along with the same age verification documents.

The parent could subsequently revoke their consent for the child’s account at any time and the company would be prohibited from retaining any identifying information after access to the platform is granted.

Addressing the addictive nature of social media and the presence of predators that target children online, Calloway said the bill also required companies to set up a mechanism where parents can view the content their child creates and consumes on the platform.

“It just gives the parents that opportunity to know that they're on there and to monitor what they want to monitor for their child and be able to be responsible for them,” Calloway said.

Social media companies would be required to allow parents to view all of their child’s posts and messages, control their privacy and account settings and monitor or even limit the amount of time their child spends on the platform.

Calloway said the bill would stop short of censoring what type of material children on the platform could see, as opposed to adults.

While similar legislation in other states and the federal level have gained bipartisan support, there has also been bipartisan criticism over First Amendment concerns and the government requiring users to send companies sensitive personal information.

A similar law was set to go into effect in Arkansas last fall, before a federal judge blocked it over constitutional issues.

Calloway said his bill was consistent with Republicans’ small government ideology “from a social conservative aspect.”

“We don't allow a kid to buy alcohol, we don't allow a child to smoke cigarettes, we don't allow a child to buy tobacco, things that have addictive properties to it,” Calloway said. “We've been consistent to say that this has to be regulated in some way, shape, or form to make sure that minors aren't harmed by that.”

Calloway said he was hopeful HB 450 would advance into law this session, along with House Bill 241, which would require pornography websites to also require age verification to prohibit minors.

Joe is the enterprise statehouse reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email Joe at jsonka@lpm.org.