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The ACLU of Arkansas on Friday filed a proposed amicus brief in a federal lawsuit challenging a new state law that requires social media platforms to verify new users’ ages.
The law, heralded by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seeks to protect children from the harms of social media by requiring new users to prove that they are 18 or older or obtain parental permission to be on a site.
“This misguided attempt to ‘protect’ Arkansans ironically threatens to strip away our civil rights,” ACLU of Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson said in a statement. “This law is an affront to our freedom of expression and right to privacy, and a stark reflection of an alarming trend where our fundamental rights as Arkansans are being eroded under the guise of security. Arkansans deserve better than legislation that prioritizes control and surveillance over constitutionally guaranteed liberties.”
In the amicus brief, the ACLU of Arkansas echoed NetChoice’s free speech concerns, arguing that core First Amendment activity takes place on social media, including engaging in political expression, artistic expression, and religious worship or fellowship, as well as sharing minority views and experiences.
Prohibiting minors from opening a social media account without parental consent “burdens the First Amendment rights of young people who use social media accounts, and of the adults who are interested in hearing what they have to say,” according to the amicus brief.
The ACLU also argues the age verification requirement will “impermissibly burden users,” including adults by robbing users of anonymity, which could stifle the speech of whistleblowers or dissidents. It could also prevent some users who lack a necessary form of identification from accessing social media at all.
To ensure users’ First Amendment rights are protected, the amicus brief requests the court grant the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. NetChoice has asked a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas to enter a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from taking effect Sept. 1.
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