Virginia's Legislature rejects proposed ban on TikTok for kids

In a blow to Republican lawmakers and Governor Glenn Youngkin, a bill aimed at preventing Virginia children from using the popular video-sharing app TikTok failed to progress in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Jay Leftwich, was left in a House of Delegates committee due to concerns about enforcement and the singling out of one company. Lawmakers questioned whether targeting TikTok was the appropriate response to broader concerns about the impact of social media on youth.

Governor Youngkin had supported the ban as a means to protect children's mental health, aligning with his administration's focus on the issue. Leftwich also cited mental health and data privacy concerns as the motivation behind the bill.

The bill, which underwent revisions, sought to prohibit TikTok Inc. and its parent company, ByteDance, from providing access to any child within the Commonwealth. It would have allowed parents or legal custodians to sue TikTok if a child was granted access, with potential damages of $75,000 per violation.

The bill received a hearing in a House committee but was not heard in the subsequent committee, effectively killing the measure due to a procedural deadline. Democrats in the hearing raised concerns about enforceability and whether it was the government or parents who should be responsible for limiting children's access to social media.

TikTok, through spokesperson Jamal Brown, emphasized the company's efforts to support teen well-being on the app, including time limits and parental controls. Brown argued that bans like the proposed legislation raise significant First Amendment concerns.

Governor Youngkin had previously banned the use of TikTok on state government devices and wireless networks due to national security concerns. Other states and the federal government have also imposed restrictions on TikTok's use on government devices.

While the bill's failure represents a setback for Republican lawmakers, it highlights the ongoing debate over the regulation of social media and its impact on children's mental health. The disagreement over singling out TikTok suggests that there is a need for a broader approach to address concerns regarding all social media platforms.


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