AR Briefly

Arkansas ACLU files amicus brief in social media age verification suit

By: - July 14, 2023 5:31 pm

(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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. 

NetChoice, a tech trade group whose members include Meta (Facebook), Twitter and TikTok, filed a federal lawsuit in June that argues Act 689 of 2023 violates the First Amendment rights of Arkansans.

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.”

Internet group files federal suit against Arkansas over new social media age verification law

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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Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.