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How to Enforce Social Media Age Verification

State of the Union: It's not a question of if, but when.
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The effort seeking to require age verification for social media is not slowing down. “The evidence is increasingly clear that social media is harming young people,” wrote John Ehrett and Clare Morell in a policy brief published this morning by the Institute for Family Studies and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

That claim has social scientific backing, but it’s also observably true, as TAC's Emile Doak confirms in his feature for the magazine's July/August issue. The policy brief takes the fact of personal and social harm for granted and instead focuses on the more granular questions of enforcement. Its authors describe the benefits and potential side effects of enforcement types (government records, financial documentation, etc.) and mechanisms of enforcement (first-party verification completed by the social media companies, third-party verification through a company such as Privo, and the more esoteric method of “zero-proof” verification that could be a viable path for legislators who want to make social media companies work a little bit harder to ensure user privacy).


And what could be wrong with wanting to make these corporations work harder? Big Tech companies at the present moment have little incentive to enforce consumer protections: not only because of a lack of legislation or legal implementation, but because of the fundamental principle that says social media users are not customers but products for advertisers.

This consumer identity crisis will not weaken because certain families decide to opt out – as admirable and advisable as that strategy is – but through of a visionary steering of the issue that welcomes federal involvement in a national issue.