Legislation requires social media platforms to prioritize the well-being of children and protect against online risks
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper, Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, joined a bipartisan group of more than 27 colleagues to reintroduce the Kids Online Safety Act, which will protect children from harmful content online and hold social media companies accountable.
“Social media’s addictive algorithms are driving a youth mental health crisis online, and the social media companies building these platforms know it,” said Hickenlooper. “These companies are chasing clicks and profits instead of protecting our children online.”
The Kids Online Safety Act provides young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms. The bill requires social media platforms to put the well-being of children first, ensuring an environment that is safe by default. The legislation requires independent audits by experts and academic researchers to ensure that social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids.
The Kids Online Safety Act:
- Requires that social media platforms provide minors with options to protect their information, disable addictive product features, and opt out of algorithmic recommendations. Platforms would be required to enable the strongest settings by default.
- Gives parents new controls to help support their children and identify harmful behaviors, and provides parents and children with a dedicated channel to report harms to kids to the platform.
- Creates a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors, such as promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and unlawful products for minors (e.g. gambling and alcohol).
- Requires social media platforms to perform an annual independent audit that assesses the risks to minors, their compliance with this legislation, and whether the platform is taking meaningful steps to prevent those harms.
- Provides academic and public interest organizations with access to critical datasets from social media platforms to foster research regarding harms to the safety and well-being of minors.
The bill, led by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn, passed the Senate Commerce Committee in a unanimous vote during the 117th Congress. The Kids Online Safety Act is supported by hundreds of advocacy and technology groups, including Common Sense Media, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Compass, Eating Disorders Coalition, Fairplay, Mental Health America, and Digital Progress Institute.