2 new bills establishing social media protections for children make their way through state legislature

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Posted at 12:31 PM, Feb 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 17:38:18-05

DENVER — State lawmakers are hoping to protect Colorado children on the Internet with two new bills targeting social media.

One of the bills is called "Healthier Social Media Use by Youth." HB24-1136 would require the Colorado Department of Education to "create and maintain a resource bank of evidence-based, research-based, and promising program materials and curricula pertaining to the mental health impacts of social media use by children and teens," the bill description said.

It would also require pop-up warnings urging children and teenagers who've been on an app for more than an hour to close it after 10 p.m.

"The warning must state that data shows that youth who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, including anxiety and depression symptoms. The warning must include links to resources on the platform for setting screen time limits and links to the health-effect data," the bill description said.

It was scheduled to be discussed Thursday.

The bill has bipartisan support with House Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, R-District 14, Rep. Judy Amabile, D-District 49, Sen. Lisa Cutter, D-Jeffferson County, and Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Douglas County sponsoring "Healthier Social Media Use by Youth."

The second bill - introduced last week - would require a company to post published policies for each of its social media platforms and submit reports to the state attorney's general office. Under SB24-158, the social media company must:

  • Use a commercially reasonable process to verify each user's age.
  • Allow each user of its social media platforms to select an option to apply the protections available to juveniles.
  • Retain any information obtained for age verification purposes only for the purpose of compliance and for no other purpose and to dispose of such information.
  • Provide readily accessible and easy-to-use tools and settings for parents and guardians to support an individual that a social media platform knows or reasonably should know is a juvenile.
  • Provide an individual that the platform knows or reasonably should know is a juvenile with clear and conspicuous warnings of certain threats and events regarding content that the individual shares or accesses on a social media platform.
  • Immediately remove any user of a social media platform who promotes, sells, or advertises an illicit substance or engages in the sale of a firearm in violation of state or federal law, the sex trafficking of a juvenile, or the display of sexually exploitative material.

The social media company's published policies must include:

  • Contact information that allows a user to ask the social media company questions about the published policies.
  • A description of the process that a user must follow to flag content.
  • A process to which the social media company commits for the purpose of responding to and resolving user questions and flagged content.
  • A statement that the use of the social media platform for the promotion, sale, or advertisement of any illicit substance; for the sale of any firearm in violation of state or federal law; for sex trafficking of a juvenile; or for the possession, display, exchange, distribution, sale, or creation of, or the inducement to create, sexually exploitative material is prohibited.
  • A description of the social media company's process for enforcing its published policies and the potential consequences of violating the published policies.

The reports to the attorney general must include:

  • The current version of the published policies of the social media platform.
  • A description of the social media platform's age verification practices, how they are enforced, and how the social media platform responds to user reports of violations.
  • Data describing questionable content and related actions taken by the social media company.
  • Data concerning how juveniles in Colorado use the social media platform.
  • Data concerning a social media platform's application of its published policies.

A violation of this bill would be punishable pursuant under the "Colorado Consumer Protection Act."
If SB24-158 continues to make its way through the legislature and is signed by the governor, it would go into effect on July 1, 2025.

The sponsors of this bill are Sen. Chris Hansen, D-Denver County, Sen. Dafna Michaelson Janet, D-Adams and Arapahoe Counties, and Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-District 26.

Both these bills come as social media apps are under increased scrutiny nationwide, including from parents in Colorado, alleging their children's mental health was harmed because of how social media algorithms are designed.

2 bills establishing social media protections for children in state legislature

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