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New York lawmakers deliberate social media algorithm regulations

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Legislation currently under review by the New York state Senate and Assembly aims to restrict social media platforms from providing children under 18 access to personalized feeds generated by predictive algorithms.

State Attorney General Tish James, a key contributor to the bill, emphasized concerns over the addictive nature of these algorithms and their potential harm to children, particularly those grappling with mental health issues.

In a recent statement, Attorney General James urged lawmakers to advance the bill during this legislative session, underscoring the need for parental control over social media usage and the necessity to mitigate the effects of addictive algorithms on youth well-being. This advocacy was further bolstered by an op-ed co-authored by James, recently published in USA Today.

Opposition to the proposed legislation has emerged from various quarters within the social media industry, notably from the Chamber of Progress, a trade organization representing major players such as Google, Snap, and Amazon. CEO Adam Kovacevich contends that algorithms play a vital role in enhancing the safety and overall experience of teenagers on social media platforms.

Kovacevich referenced an internal study conducted by Meta, which revealed that chronological feeds, suggested as an alternative by the state, result in 20% fewer meaningful social interactions. He argued that algorithms are instrumental in tailoring content to teenagers based on their age and interests, thereby facilitating access to relevant and engaging material.

Despite advocacy efforts, the proposed legislation has not been included in either house’s budget proposal. Kovacevich emphasized the necessity for a thorough examination of the bill’s implications, citing the absence of public hearings and discussions regarding its efficacy in addressing concerns surrounding social media platforms.

Attorney General James reiterated her stance, expressing dissatisfaction with the response of social media companies to her office’s concerns and asserting the need for legislative intervention to safeguard the well-being of young users. As deliberations continue, stakeholders on both sides remain engaged in a contentious debate over the regulation of social media algorithms and their impact on adolescent mental health.

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