• The bill was passed by an overwhelming vote of 82-10
  • The law does not apply to Amazon, Google and Apple
  • Arkansas filed lawsuits against TikTok and Facebook parent Meta last month

Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a social media safety bill into law Wednesday, making Arkansas the second state to restrict children's use of such platforms.

The new Social Media Safety Act will require companies to partner with third-party vendors to carry out age verification checks on new users. The law applies to new accounts created on social media apps, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, from Sept. 1. It will also prohibit third-party vendors from retaining or storing information after the age verification process, ABC News reported.

Users under the age of 18 will be required to have parental permission or else, the online companies could be fined $2,500 and even forced to pay attorney fees.

"While social media can be a great tool and a wonderful resource, it can have a massive negative impact on our kids," Sanders said before signing the legislation.

The bill was passed by an overwhelming vote of 82-10.

"I have a 10-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old and seeing the increase that we have, not just here in Arkansas, but across the country when it comes to things like depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicide rates — particularly in teenage girls — you start to pay attention to what are things that are contributing to that," Sanders added.

The law does not apply to leading tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google, along with businesses with less than $100 million in annual gross revenue, CNN reported.

Sen. Tyler Dees, R-Ar., said Apple and Google were exempted to protect services unrelated to social media and focus on new accounts created by children rather than existing accounts of adults.

"There are other services that Google offers, like cloud storage and stuff like that," Dees explained. "So that's really the intent to cut out — like LinkedIn, it's a business networking site."

District 46 Rep. Jon Eubanks, who sponsored the bill, said the new law will be a good first step in regulating online content for minors.

"I know the internet or the tech industry is concerned about this legislation, and I'm more than willing to meet with them to discuss future legislation," he said.

The development came weeks after Arkansas filed lawsuits against TikTok and Facebook parent Meta, alleging the social media companies misled consumers about children's safety on their platforms and the protection of users' private data.

Last month, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed the first-ever law in the country to limit children's use of social media. Set to take effect in March 2024, the law requires parental consent before kids can sign up for social media sites like TikTok and Instagram. Another bill signed by the Republican governor prohibits children under 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. and requires age verification for users.

Other states, such as Texas, Ohio and Louisiana, are pondering similar measures. Last year, California enacted a law that mandates online services to install safety measures for users under 18, including providing a signal to the minor when their location is being monitored by parents or guardians.

Social media in Niger came under a massive disinformation attack in February, an AFP Fact Check investigation has found