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Poll finds wide support for banning social media algorithms for kids. Hochul says it's a top priority

Gov. Kathy Hochul says she's pushing for bills to ban harmful social media algorithims targeting children as the 2024 session draws to a close.
Don Pollard
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul says she's pushing for bills to ban harmful social media algorithims targeting children as the 2024 session draws to a close.

As the New York state legislative session draws to a close, a new Siena College poll finds support for several items before the Senate and Assembly, including protecting children from harmful algorithms on social media.

Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said in a divided electorate, a ban on social media algorithms that target harmful and addictive feeds to minors is one issue that seems to unite Democrats and Republicans in New York.

“When you get 63% of voters, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents, to agree on something, you would think your elected officials would listen to that.” Greenberg said. “Because that's the electorate. That's what the electorate wants.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul said getting the social media regulation bills passed into law is a top priority for her in the remaining days of the session. She said data shows that use of social media by children and teens is linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.

“And this darkness lives on platforms like Instagram, TikTok,” Hochul said. “These are ruled by addictive algorithms designed to draw the young people deeper and deeper into that darkness over and over.”

One of the bills, known as the SAFE Act for Kids, would restrict companies from using the algorithms without parental consent. Another, the Child Data Protection Act, would prohibit online platforms from collecting and sharing children’s personal data without consent.

Hochul held a news conference with the sponsors of the bills in the Senate and the Assembly. She said she and the Legislature are still crafting bill language that could withstand any potential legal challenges.

There has been intense lobbying against the measures from big tech companies, with reports that companies, including Google and Meta, have spent over $1 million on lobbying efforts.

The governor could not say whether the votes are there yet to approve the measures.

“The momentum is building for this,” Hochul said. “We’re in the final days, just rallying support.”

The poll also asked about New York’s Equal Rights Amendment, which would enshrine abortion rights and transgender rights into the state’s constitution, among other things.

The poll finds two-thirds of New Yorkers favor protecting abortion rights, but they are more divided on transgender rights, with 63% of Democrats supporting and 58% of Republicans opposing it. Independent voters back both provisions, though by a smaller margin.

Greenberg said overall support for the amendment, though, is strong when they are asked whether they would vote for it.

“Most of the people come back,” Greenberg said. “59% of voters, a clear majority, say they’d vote yes, compared to only 26% who say they would vote no.”

The ERA was slated to be on the ballot in November but is currently on hold after a court challenge.

The poll finds opposition to some proposed measures, including an expansion of the state’s bottle bill that would double the deposit to 10 cents and add wine and hard cider bottles.

Voters also are against any climate change-fighting measures that could result in higher prices for energy.

The New York HEAT Act would eliminate ratepayer subsidies for hooking up new gas lines. Opponents say the changes would end up costing utility customers more, something supporters deny.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.