COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge issued an order Tuesday temporarily halting enforcement of a pending Ohio law that would require children to get parental consent to use social media apps.

Gov. Spencer Cox signs two social media regulation bills during a ceremony at the Capitol building in Salt Lake City on March 23, 2023| Photo by Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune, via The Associated Press, St. George News

The Ohio law is similar to two laws signed in March by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox that will prohibit minors from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. unless authorized by a parent — and require age verification to open and maintain a social media account in the state.

The Utah restrictions are designed to protect children from targeted advertisements and addictive features that could negatively impact their mental health. Both laws take effect March 1, 2024.

Tuesday’s ruling in Ohio saw U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley issue a temporary restraining order and came after a lawsuit was brought Friday by NetChoice, a trade group representing TikTok, Snapchat, Meta and other major tech companies.

The group has won lawsuits against similar restrictions in California and Arkansas and is the same organization that sued the state of Utah in December 2023. The litigation argues that the law unconstitutionally impedes free speech and is overbroad and vague.

While calling the intent to protect children “a laudable aim,” Marbley said it is unlikely that Ohio will be able to show the law is “narrowly tailored to any ends that it identifies.”

“Foreclosing minors under 16 from accessing all content on websites that the act purports to cover, absent affirmative parental consent, is a breathtakingly blunt instrument for reducing social media’s harm to children,” he wrote.

The law is similar to those enacted in other states and was set to take effect Jan. 15.

FILE – The Meta logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris, France, on June 14, 2023. A group of 33 states including Utah, California and New York is suing Meta Platforms Inc. for harming young people’s mental health and contributing to the youth mental health crisis by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms | Photo by Thibault Camus, The Associated Press, St. George News

Dozens of U.S. states, including Utah, California and New York, filed a suit in October 2023 against Meta Platforms Inc. for harming young people and contributing to the youth mental health crisis by knowingly and deliberately designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms.

A lawsuit filed by 33 states in federal court in California claims that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law. In addition, nine attorneys general are filing lawsuits in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 41 and Washington D.C.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its social media platforms,” the complaint says. “It has concealed the ways in which these platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children.”

The Social Media Parental Notification Act in Ohio requires social media companies to obtain a parent’s permission for children under 16 to sign up for social media and gaming apps. It also mandates that the companies provide parents with their privacy guidelines so families can know what content will be censored or moderated on their child’s profile.

The act was part of an $86.1 billion state budget bill that Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law in July. The administration pushed the measure as a way to protect children’s mental health, with Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted saying at the time that social media was “intentionally addictive” and harmful to kids.

NetChoice, a trade group that represents TikTok and other major tech companies, filed suit against GOP Attorney General Dave Yost in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

The NetChoice trade group argues in its federal lawsuit that although Utah’s regulations are well-intentioned, they are unconstitutional because they restrict access to public content, compromise data security and undermine parental rights.

Written by JULIE CARR SMYTH, The Associated Press

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