A Bipartisan Pair of Senators reintroduction Tuesday’s Kids Online Safety Act includes updates aimed at addressing concerns that the bill could do more harm to the young internet users it seeks to protect. But some activists who have raised these issues say the changes are still not enough.
The bill aims to make the internet a safer place for children to access by making social media companies responsible for preventing and mitigating harm that may result from their services. . The new version of the bill defines a set list of harms that platforms must take reasonable steps to mitigate, including preventing the spread of posts that promote suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, and more. These companies must undergo annual independent audits for risks to minors and must enable the strongest privacy settings for children by default.
meeting and President Joe Biden Making it clear that protecting children online is a key priority, KOSA is one of the leading bills on the issue. KOSA has amassed a long list of over 25 co-sponsors, and an earlier version of the bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously last year. The new version of the bill has support from groups such as Common Sense Media, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Eating Disorders Coalition.
At a virtual press conference Tuesday, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who introduced the bill alongside Republican Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, said Senate Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer (DY) said the bill and , the percentage that supports efforts to protect children online. ”
Blumenthal acknowledged that it would ultimately be up to Senate leaders to determine when, but said he “fully hopes and expects a vote to take place during this session.”
A spokesperson for Schumer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The end of last year, Dozens of Civil Society Groups Warn Congress He opposed passage of the bill, arguing that it could further endanger young internet users in a number of ways. For example, the group fears the bill will put pressure on online platforms to be “too moderate.” what information is appropriate For young people. ”
Blumenthal and Blackburn made some changes to the text in response to criticism from outside groups. They sought to more carefully adjust the law to limit the duty of care requirements of social media platforms to a specific set of potential harms to mental health, based on evidence-backed medical information. .
It also added protections to support services such as national suicide hotlines, substance abuse groups, and LGBTQ+ youth centers to ensure they are not unintentionally hindered by the bill’s requirements. Blumenthal’s office said it did not believe the duty of care would apply to this type of group, but chose to clarify anyway.
But these changes were not enough to appease some civil society and industry groups.
Evan Greer, director of the digital rights nonprofit Fight for the Future, said Blumenthal’s office met with the group and was updated ahead of the introduction, despite repeated requests. Greer confirmed that his co-sponsor’s office had met with other groups, but said in an emailed statement that they “recommend content moderation and algorithms.” It seems to have intentionally excluded groups with expertise in specific problem areas, such as.”
“I have read it and can clearly say that the changes made do not address the concerns we raised in our letter.” , allowing state attorneys general to effectively dictate which content platforms can be recommended to minors,” she added.
“The ACLU continues to strongly oppose KOSA because it ironically exposes the very children it seeks to protect to increased harm and increased scrutiny,” said Cody Venzke, senior policy counsel at the ACLU. The group took part in a letter last year warning of its passage.
“KOSA’s core approach is to police users under the guise of ‘duty of care’ and represent all kinds of platforms to censor content, thus ensuring the privacy, security and freedom of both minors and adults. It still threatens representation,” Venzke added. In addition, while parental guidance in the online lives of minors is important, KOSA mandates monitoring tools, such as the home conditions and safety of minors. Regardless of gender, KOSA will take a step back in making the internet a safer place for children and minors.”
At a press conference, responding to questions about criticism of Fight for the Future, Blumenthal said the duty of care was “very intentionally narrowed” to target specific harms. .
“I think we responded to such proposals very directly and effectively,” he said. “Obviously our doors remain open. We want to hear and talk about other kinds of suggestions. The group has actually dropped its objections, and I’m going to ask you at today’s session that I think our bill has been clarified and improved in response to some of the criticisms: a single bill that addresses all the world’s problems. We’re not going to solve it. We’re off to a measurable and very important start.”
The bill also received criticism from several groups funded by the tech industry.
NetChoice has California sued over Age-Appropriate Design Code Act and its members include Google, meta and TikTok said in a press release that despite lawmakers’ attempts to address concerns, “Unfortunately, how this bill works in practice involves age verification mechanisms and concerns about Americans of all ages. We still need to collect data,” he said.
“Finding out how young people should use technology is a difficult question and one that is always best answered by parents,” said Carl Szabo, NetChoice vice president and general counsel, in a statement. “Instead, KOSA will create DC’s Insider Oversight Board to decide what is best for children on behalf of parents,” Szabo added.
“KOSA 2.0 raises more questions than it answers,” said Ari Cohn, free speech counsel at the Google-funded think tank TechFreedom, in a statement. “What constitutes a reason to know a user is under 17 is entirely unclear and not defined in the bill. It is clear that we should check the age of all our users, and worse, we should avoid acquiring knowledge at all, leaving minors completely unprotected.”
“Protecting young people online is a widely shared goal, but imposing compliance obligations that compromise the privacy and safety of teenagers would contradict the goals of such a bill.” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association.member is included Amazon, Google, Meta, Twitter. “Governments should ensure that digital services collect more personal information about users (such as geolocation and government-issued IDs), especially if responsible companies take steps to reduce the collection and storage of data about their customers. We need to avoid compliance requirements that force us to do so.”