Maryland lawmakers pass bill aimed at protecting kids online

Maryland lawmakers unanimously passed the Kids Code this weekend – a bill aimed at protecting kids online. But the tech companies say it's unconstitutional. 

The Maryland Kids Code passed both houses unanimously with overwhelming bipartisan support. The law – modeled after one in the UK -- blocks tech companies from collecting certain data on children under 18 and from using addictive tactics like auto-playing and constant notifications.

Advocates tout the bill, saying it is long past time for social media companies to incorporate age-appropriate design standards to keep kids safe and protect their privacy. But the tech companies say the law imposes on their right to free speech and is unconstitutional.

"Look, I'm a parent. Being a parent is tough in the 21st century. But the government should not try to replace me as a parent. Mark Zuckerberg is not my kid's parent and his interests are not the same as mine. And they shouldn't be. He's trying to run a business, I'm trying to run a family," said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice. 

Szabo works for a trade group that represents several social media giants including Meta, X Corp, and Google. He says that if companies are not allowed to track the data of their minor users then it will result in more inappropriate content for kids. 

Chris McComas is the mother of 15-year-old Grace who died by suicide 12 years ago after incessant cyberbullying. McComas fought to get the Kids Code passed saying by the time a child is 13, 72 million data points have been collected for that teen.

"In 2022 social media platforms sold 11 billion dollars worth of ads targeted at those children. So privacy is an issue, addiction on purpose. We now know from whistleblowers who brought documentation forward that they knew what they were doing was harmful and they chose not to make those changes. So that's what Maryland Kids Code is about," said McComas. 

The bill now heads to Governor Wes Moore's desk for his signature.