An Iowa House committee advanced a law on Monday to give parents something they can already control: Oversight of their child’s social media accounts. But the bill might instead lead parents to give up more of their own personal information to large social media companies.
“Utah just did a law very similar that allows parental permission and I think you’re going to see other states doing very similar things,” said Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake), who is managing the youth social media ban bill.
The original version of the newly renumbered HF 712 banned anyone under 18 in Iowa from having their own social media accounts. It was written so broadly minors wouldn’t be allowed to use websites that allow users to communicate with each other, so that would have included email, online video game services, and even digital education tools.
“The original bill was quite onerous, it was very heavy-handed,” Wills said. “I’m a believer in parents’ rights and I’m a believer that parents should have the right to decide what their child does.”
The amended version narrows that focus and carves out exceptions.
The bill defines social media as an “internet site or application that is open to the public, allows a user to create an account, and enables users to communicate with other users for the primary purpose of posting information, comments, messages or images.” Exclusions to this definition include internet-service providers, e-mail, or sites or apps that consist “primarily of news, sports, entertainment, or other information or content preselected by the provider that is not user-generated and where interactive functionality is incidental to, directly related to, or dependent on the provision of the content.”
The amended version of the bill also prohibits social media websites from collecting personal information from minors including their name, e-mail, physical location, phone number, social security number, and more, unless a teen has parental permission to be on the platform.
If the bill were to become law, theoretically, Iowa teens who are on social media illegally/without parental permission would have their data protected by the law, but the data of teens with parental permission/legal access would not be protected.
When asked by reporters how parents can verify their identities to grant their kids permission to use social media, Wills suggested parents could provide social media websites with their driver’s licenses or other identifiers.
“A social platform would develop a process where they’re going to identify parents and understand the parents who want to give permission,” Wills said.
Social media companies found in violation of the law would be fined a $1,000 civil penalty per violation. To enforce this, the bill allows the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, on behalf of a child, to take civil action against companies found in violation of the law.
The Ways and Means Committee advanced the amended bill 14-9 with Republicans Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids and Brent Siegrist joining Democrats in opposing it, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The Gazette also reports that Jones questioned Wills on the purpose of the bill, which is now eligible for debate on the House floor.
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do,” Jones told Wills. “Parents should be in control of what their children are seeing and doing online. I don’t think this bill or this amendment do that. And I have a lot of questions of what is happening here.”
by Ty Rushing
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