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Arkansas U.S. Sen. Cotton proposes social media regulation bill

Sen. Tom Cotton explains why he supports a bill to regulate how children can use social media.
Sen. Tom Cotton explains why he supports a bill to regulate how children can use social media in a news conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Republican Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton proposed legislation Wednesday to regulate social media companies. The bill will require social media sites nationwide to verify the age of their users and prohibit children under age 13 from using their platforms.

The proposed bill will require users to show an ID to use social media, a stronger verification system than what's required under current law. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 will need parental permission to set up a social media account.

Cotton called it a common-sense bill.

“If a child is say, too young to sign a contract or too young to open a bank account in the real world, they are too young to sign terms of service agreement and use social media in the digital world,” he said.

Cotton was joined by fellow Republican Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama, as well as Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. Schatz expressed his concerns that social media could be addictive.

“The duration of time the user spends on the app and the extent to which they engage with content is directly correlated with ad revenue,” Schatz said.

Cotton said he did not think it would be difficult for social media companies to implement these changes.

“Age verification online is done every day,” he said referencing the fact that the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs both use age verification on their websites.

A similar bill was signed into law by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders this month. The bill also requires parental permission to use social media sites.

The full text of the bill is available here.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.