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Judge temporarily blocks Arkansas social media law

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(The Center Square) – U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks issued a injunction stopping a law that would have required social media companies to verify the age of its users or face a penalty.

Lawmakers said Act 689 protects children from accessing harmful content on the internet.

“Today the problem is one-third of all sexual crimes from an online situation are stemming from a social media interaction,” said Sen. Tyler Dees, R-Siloam Springs, the lead sponsor of the bill at the bill’s signing ceremony in April.

NetChoice, an organization representing companies including Facebook and Instagram, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Western Arkansas in June. They said in the lawsuit Act 689 violates the first amendment by “requiring that Arkansans hand over sensitive and private information to be able to use digital communication services.

“Hinging access to social media and other sources of important information on uploading personal information will harm free speech in the state,” the organization said on its website. “SB 396 also undermines cybersecurity by requiring residents to hand over, and requiring websites to process, sensitive personal information that is highly valuable to bad actors like organized crime groups and online hackers.”

Brooks said the law does not target the harms it identifies and more research is necessary.

“Age-gating social media platforms for adults and minors does not appear to be an effective approach when, in reality, it is the content on particular platforms that is driving the State’s true concerns,” Brooks said.

Attorney General Tim Griffin has not said if he will appeal the injunction.

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