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Big Tech against children’s online safety? Google, Meta spearhead over $1 mn lobbying efforts to oppose NY bills aimed at protecting children online

The million-dollar lobbying efforts are directed against two bills that would prohibit the use of algorithmic recommendations on children and the collection and sale of personal data from users under the age of 18.

Tech behemoths like Meta and Google have spent about $1.5 million combating strategies in the United States aimed at protecting children online.

According to recent disclosures made by the New York Post, a large-scale lobbying effort is being led by some of the world’s largest tech firms who have spent $1.23 million ($US823,235) campaigning lawmakers in Albany, New York. The campaign is being conducted against the two bills that would prohibit the use of algorithmic recommendations on children and the collection and sale of personal data from users under the age of 18.

The proposals, the ‘Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act’ and the ‘New York Child Data Protection Act’ are scheduled for a vote next month and are bipartisan.

However, the tech giants have launched extensive lobbying operations against the legislation in an attempt to prevent or weaken its passage. According to public disclosures, the collection of large tech giants, advocacy groups, and other companies spent more than $1 million on lobbying operations through mid-March.

“This is an astonishing amount of money to be spent to kill two reasonable bills,” an Albany insider was quoted as saying by the New York Post.

The SAFE Act would prohibit social media platforms from using recommendation algorithms on children, requiring chronological feeds for persons aged 18 and less unless a parental agreement is obtained.

This law would also allow parents to set time limitations for their children’s use of social media and in-app notifications.

The Child Data Protection App would prohibit digital companies from gathering and selling personal or location data from users under the age of 18 unless they obtain their consent. Children under the age of 13 would require parental approval.

In their opposition to possible rules, tech companies have said that they would limit freedom of speech, reduce online privacy for teens, limit internet access for migrants, and impede algorithms developed to curb hate speech.

A Meta spokeswoman stated that the tech giant would support nationwide laws mandating parental consent when users under the age of 16 download apps, rather than state-based efforts.

“Teens move interchangeably between many websites and apps, and different laws in different states will mean teens and their parents have inconsistent experiences online. As we continue working with New York lawmakers, it’s crucial that we avoid quick fixes and, instead, support legislation that actually empowers parents and supports teens online,” the spokesperson said.

The lobbying push comes as these tech titans confront similar legislation attempts in Australia aimed at better protecting children online, notably through social media.

The South Australian government recently announced proposals to restrict children from social media, with those under 14 barred from using it totally and those under 15 or 16 requiring parental consent. The federal government will also proceed with an age verification trial to prevent children from accessing online pornography and other age-restricted information.

A new Parliamentary Select Committee on the influence and impacts of social media on Australian society will also be established, with a focus on algorithms, recommender systems, and corporate decision-making by digital platforms in influencing what individuals see online.

Other significant spenders include Google and TikTok, which has launched a federal lawsuit to halt a divestment measure that would cut links with Chinese ownership due to national security concerns.

Despite strong resistance, the law appears to be making headway toward passage. The SAFE Act has 94 supporters in the state assembly, including 81 Democrats and 13 Republicans. There are 25 sponsors in the state senate, comprising 21 Democrats and four Republicans.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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