This story was first reported by Louisiana Illuminator and republished with permission.
Louisiana minors will soon need parental consent to open social media accounts under a law recently signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The law, authored by Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, would also require social media companies to “make commercially reasonable efforts” to verify the ages of Louisiana account holders.
This policy is part of a wave in Louisiana and the rest of the country to set up safeguards for children online. A law went into effect in the state this year that required pornography sites to verify users were adults. President Joe Biden has called for legislation to prevent tech companies from collecting personal data from children and teens.
The Louisiana law offers some acceptable ways for social media companies to obtain permission from parents for their children to open an account, including:
- A form for parents to sign and return to the company electronically or by mail
- A toll free number or video call between parents and the company
- An email where parents can provide permission after verifying their identity
- Or “any other commercially reasonable method of obtaining consent light of available technology.”
The law also requires companies to put up additional safeguards for Louisiana children on their sites.
The social media companies must prohibit adults from messaging Louisiana minors with whom they aren’t already connected. (For example, if a child has an aunt as a friend on an app, she could message them, but some random person they don’t have as a friend could not.)
The companies will also be prohibited from displaying advertisements to minors based off personal information outside of age and location, a departure from the highly-targeted ads that are the status quo for social media companies.
Additionally, the companies can’t collect personal information of children “beyond what is adequate, relevant, and reasonably necessary.”
Social media companies would also have to provide parents the ability to monitor their children’s accounts. This would include viewing privacy settings, setting time limits, scheduling breaks and giving children the option to send a notification to their parents when they report someone or something.
The law also outlines a division under the state Department of Justice to collect consumer complaints related to violations of these requirements. The division will investigate complaints and enforce the provisions of the law, including fines of up to $2,500 for each violation. The division can also bring court action against those who may have violated the law.
The division will publish an annual report on its website detailing any alleged violations or imposed penalties.
The law goes into effect July 1, 2024.