A bill with bipartisan support will be introduced in the Senate on Wednesday that would require social media companies to add additional steps to protect children under the age of 16.
The Kids Online Safety Act, co-sponsored by Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, seeks to increase safety standards in the wake of child safety concerns.
Big Tech has failed children & betrayed its trust, putting profits above safety. @MarshaBlackburn & I are introducing the Kids Online Safety Act to give kids & parents the tools & safeguards to protect against toxic content—& hold Big Tech accountable for dangerous algorithms. pic.twitter.com/MmMxAk4Hwd
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) February 16, 2022
The proposed bill requires social media platforms to provide a safe default environment and to help prevent potentially destructive impacts.
“The legislation also requires independent audits and supports public scrutiny from experts and academic researchers to ensure that parents and policymakers know whether social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids,” according to a statement from Blumenthal’s office.
“Protecting our kids and teens online is critically important, particularly since COVID increased our reliance on technology,” Blackburn said.
“In hearings over the last year, Senator Blumenthal and I have heard countless stories of physical and emotional damage affecting young users, and Big Tech’s unwillingness to change. The Kids Online Safety Act will address those harms by setting necessary safety guiderails for online platforms to follow that will require transparency and give parents more peace of mind,” she added.
Blumenthal also highlighted the importance of internet safety as a top priority for children.
“This measure makes kids’ safety an internet priority,” Blumenthal wrote. “Big Tech has brazenly failed children and betrayed its trust, putting profits above safety. Seared in my memory—and motivating my passion—are countless harrowing stories from Connecticut and across the country about heartbreaking loss, destructive emotional rabbit holes, and addictive dark places rampant on social media.
“The Kids Online Safety Act would finally give kids and their parents the tools and safeguards they need to protect against toxic content—and hold Big Tech accountable for deeply dangerous algorithms. Algorithms driven by eyeballs and dollars will no longer hold sway. I will fight for swift passage alongside Senator Blackburn, my partner in this effort.”
A summary of the bill noted that the proposed legislation followed the research of five hearings in the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, academic research, media reporting and stories from families. The research noted, “Social media can foster body image issues, create addictionlike patterns of use, promote products that are harmful or illegal for young audiences, and fuel destructive bullying.”
A Wall Street Journal report cited a 2020 study that found, “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.” The report also noted, “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
The legislation has been endorsed by several child safety organizations, including Common Sense Media, the American Psychological Association, the 5Rights Foundation, American Compass, the Internet Accountability Project, American Principles Project, and the Digital Progress Institute.
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