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Illinois legislator seeks social media ID others say could violate free speech


(The Center Square) – An Illinois state senator is looking to regulate social media companies in order to protect children from harm, but some see a patchwork of laws across the country causing problems and possibly infringing on constitutional rights.

Last week, state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, revealed some of her legislative priorities in her “Safe Screens, Healthy Minds” initiative.

“We cannot rely upon social media companies to self-regulate because at every turn they have openly and behind the scenes resisted measures to protect minors,” Rezin said during a news conference.

Among the proposals are to require high default privacy settings for children and parents. Another would require social media companies to have a free customer support service to address complaints. A third would require platforms to create an identity verification process.

Rezin said requiring ID verification is crucial.

“The need for some form of identity verification on these platforms is something that has been repeatedly brought up by concerned parents and educators whenever I discuss this issue,” she said.

David McGarry, a policy analyst with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said states passing standalone measures regulating services like those found on the internet could force consumers to use tools regulated by the most draconian policies, let alone possibly running afoul of constitutional rights.

“The First Amendment protects your right to speak anonymously. This is settled law,” McGarry told The Center Square. “While there are certainly many people online who I think most of us would agree abuse this right, that doesn’t mean that under our constitutional system the government can come in and make those calls and force people to identify themselves.”

Jason Kelley, Activism director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said requiring social media ID verification will “harm everyone’s ability to speak out and share information, regardless of their age.”

“The collection of such data necessarily creates risks that this information could be sold, stolen, or otherwise misused,” Kelley said in a statement to The Center Square. “Additionally, there are tens of millions of U.S. residents without a form of government-issued identification who would lose access to much of the internet under schemes like these.”

He said no one should have to hand over their driver’s license just to access free websites.

“We are disappointed that lawmakers are pursuing such overbroad legislation,” Kelley said.

Rezin has hosted roundtable discussions to get feedback from parents, educators and mental health professionals.