I wish I were sensationalizing this. The Social Media Parental Notification Act is becoming effective here as of January 15th. It targets “social media operators”. Does it only target traditional sites like Facebook and Instagram? Heck no! Here’s how it defines a social media operator as seen in the Ohio Attorney General’s own FAQ:

An operator means anyone who operates an online website, service or product that allows users to do all of the following:

  1. Interact socially with other users on the website, service or product.
  2. Create a public or semipublic profile to sign into and use the website, service or product.
  3. Populate a list of other users with whom they share a connection within the website, service or product.
  4. Create or post content viewable by others – for example, on message boards, chat rooms, video channels, direct messages, or a main feed that contains content generated by others on the website, service or product.

Note that this law applies only to operators of an online website, service or product that targets children or is reasonably anticipated to be accessed by children. This law does not apply to e-commerce websites that allow for posting of reviews or to media outlets that report the news.

As the fools in the legislature have this written, use of sites like Launchpad, sr.ht, Gitlab, and GitHub would seemingly hit all four points. The first point definitely can be met by filing issues and bug reports on other people’s repositories. The second point is met by setting up your profile on one of those sites and likely making the hash of a signing key visible. The third point is met quite easily by being part of a changelog that lists contributors to a release. The fourth point is met by pushing code to public repositories.

This applies to children 16 and younger. Conceivably sr.ht, Gitlab, GitHub, and Launchpad really need to geo-block Ohio for their own safety due to this poorly conceived and written law that includes massive financial penalties. Source code hosting would most likely not meet the exception for cloud storage and cloud computing services. As that’s been defined in the Ohio Revised Code, that refers more to things like Microsoft OneDrive and Microsoft Windows 365 cloud PC.

Unintended consequences? Of course they’re unintended. Nobody’s going to amend the statute, though.