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Florida seems set to become the latest U.S. state to impose heavy restrictions on the use of social media by teenagers, in an even more draconian way than others have done.
The Florida House of Representatives yesterday overwhelmingly greenlit a bill that would outright ban all under-17s from being on social media, with third-party age verification becoming a requirement. If the state Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis follow suit, that would mean Floridian 16-year-olds would be allowed to drive alone, but not allowed to use Instagram or TikTok.
Five other states have already approved similar, but lighter, requirements. Utah, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas all plan to require parental consent for minors to go onto social media; Louisiana is also introducing a straight ban for under-16s. However, none of these laws have actually come into effect yet, and two—those in Arkansas and Ohio—have been temporarily blocked by judges who dislike their vagueness and doubt their constitutionality. (Ohio’s law was supposed to come into effect 10 days ago; Utah’s goes live on March 1.)
Here’s Florida House Speaker Paul Renner: “We must address the harmful effects social media platforms have on the development and well-being of our kids. Florida has a compelling state interest and duty to protect our children, their mental health, and their childhood.”
This is certainly in line with the prevailing attitudes of lawmakers toward social media these days, but are they actually right? I’m inclined to agree that young people need more protection online, but let’s not pretend it’s a cut-and-dried matter.
Across the Atlantic, the British online-safety nonprofit Internet Matters just released its third annual report into young people’s online well-being. Two-thirds of surveyed children (numbering around 1,000) said they’d had harmful experiences online, such as bullying or seeing extreme content, in the last year, and 63% of their parents feared their offsprings’ health was negatively impacted by time online—all of which coincided with increasing use of computing devices by young people.
However, the report also indicated a clear reversal of the downward trend in emotional, social, and developmental well-being that was apparent between 2021 and 2022. In 2023, that kids were markedly more likely to say time online made them feel more confident and independent, that the internet was important for creating things they felt proud of, and that it helped them learn, engage in hobbies, and find inspiration for future jobs. It seems they find the internet increasingly important for staying in contact with people and being part of groups. And nearly two-thirds said being online mostly made them happy (only 7% said it mostly made them sad.)
What’s more, the report suggested parents were getting more involved in their kids’ online time. “More parents taking steps to have a dialogue with their children and taking steps to monitor and manage their children’s internet usage isn’t just a positive in itself; our results suggest a link between taking these steps and higher digital well-being among children,” the report stated.
This is all heartening stuff and, while it’s just one report in one country, legislators around the world would do well to pay attention. Social media platforms certainly carry risks and need to do more to protect younger users—Meta gets a thumbs-up for today cracking down on randos sending teens unsolicited DMs on Facebook and Insta—but straight bans on teen usage are likely to be downright harmful.
More news below—and be sure to read Jessica Mathews’ ace Fortune cover story on the age of the “unicorpse”, plus Jason Del Rey’s feature on how scooter sensation Bird ended up on life support.
David Meyer
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Microsoft gaming layoffs. Those job cuts just keep on coming. Today it's Microsoft, which is nixing 1,700 roles, or 8% of the total headcount, in its gaming operations. As Bloomberg reports, many of the cuts are coming in its recently-acquired Activision Blizzard business.
Memory chip surprise. SK Hynix, Samsung’s biggest challenger in the memory-chip market, surprised analysts by turning a profit in Q4. “We achieved (a) turnaround…following a protracted downturn, thanks to our technological leadership in the AI memory space,” said CFO Kim Woohyun. As Reuters notes, SK Hynix is a key supplier to Nvidia and other AI players; it’s now going to focus even more on that market.
Amazon’s Ring reversal. Amazon has finally stopped allowing the cops to directly request Ring security camera footage from users without a warrant. TechCrunch reports that privacy advocates are somewhat pleased, but would still like Ring to implement end-to-end encryption by default and also stop collecting audio—which the devices can capture from much further than what’s visible in the video feed—by default.
"We provide financial statements when requested…OpenAI aligns our practices with industry standards, and since 2022 that includes not publicly distributing additional internal documents.”
OpenAI company spokesperson Niko Felix tells Wired the company as changed the policy it touted from its inception in 2015, in which it promised to let anyone see its governing documents, financial statements, and conflict-of-interest rules. Wired requested all these documents and received only “a narrow financial statement that omitted the majority of [OpenAI’s] operations.”
Satya Nadella’s triumphant tenure hits a new peak as Microsoft tops $3 trillion in market value—its stock is up 1,006% since he took over, by Paolo Confino
HP Enterprise admits suspected state-backed Russian hackers broke into its email system and stole data from employees, by the Associated Press
Netflix’s chief just hinted that more price hikes are coming. Here’s what to expect on your next streaming bill, by Rachyl Jones
Semiconductors turn brilliant shade of orange as ASML closes at record €775.80 after tripling orders last quarter, by Bloomberg
Tesla CEO Elon Musk says protectionism is the only thing stopping China’s cheap EVs from demolishing the competition, by Lionel Lim
Nintendo responds to Palworld’s poke. Nintendo has finally addressed the runaway success of the distinctly Pokémon-esque game Palworld.
“We have received many inquiries regarding another company’s game released in January 2024. We have not granted any permission for the use of Pokémon intellectual property or assets in that game. We intend to investigate and take appropriate measures to address any acts that infringe on intellectual property rights related to the Pokémon,” said the Nintendo-owned Pokémon Company in a statement (adding, somewhat amusingly: “We will continue to cherish and nurture each and every Pokémon and its world, and work to bring the world together through Pokémon in the future”—I mean, does anyone have any better ideas for achieving global unity?)
Meanwhile, a modder called ToastedShoes, who on Monday teased an actual Pokémon mod for Palworld (which doesn’t actually support mods for now), has already seen his video taken down following a Nintendo DMCA complaint. As Polygon explains: “From the clip ToastedShoes shared, the mod would allow players to capture beloved creatures like Pikachu and Torchic and put them to work in brutal conditions.” No idea why the legendarily litigious Nintendo would have an issue with that.
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