Senate Moves to Protect Kids Online
In a significant step towards the protection of children on the internet, the Senate Commerce Committee has approved two bills for floor discussion on Thursday, despite critics voicing their concerns over potential drawbacks.
Approaching Child Online Safety: KOSA and COPPA 2.0
The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and COPPA 2.0, both directed toward addressing the mental health crisis among children exacerbated by social media, are now one step closer to becoming law. Critics, however, express fears that these measures could unintentionally push social media platforms to collect more user information to ensure compliance with the new regulations.
Presidential Call for Children's Online Privacy
President Joe Biden, in his past State of the Union addresses, has stressed the need for more robust online privacy measures for children. Aligning with his sentiment, bipartisan lawmakers have put forward legislation aimed at fulfilling this demand, with KOSA and COPPA 2.0 emerging as the front-runners.
KOSA: Shielding Children from Damaging Content
KOSA, initiated by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), is designed to empower the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to penalize companies that fail to shield children from damaging content on their platforms. The bill seeks to prevent exposure to content promoting eating disorders, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and gambling. Additionally, KOSA proposes prohibiting social media use for children 13 and under and requires parental consent for platform usage by children under 17.
Age Verification Concerns and Proposed Amendments
In response to concerns raised by digital rights groups regarding user age verification, Blackburn proposed an amendment, which was approved alongside the bill. Despite this, concerns persist that the bill's requirements could still necessitate the collection of more user data.
Potential Hindrance to LGBTQIA+ Teens' Access to Resources
There are also worries that KOSA could inadvertently hinder LGBTQIA+ teenagers from accessing necessary resources online due to the parental consent stipulations. Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) reassured that the committee plans to work with critics to address these issues.
COPPA 2.0: Elevating Age of Protection and Ad Restrictions
The other bill, COPPA 2.0, aims to elevate the age of protection under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act from 13 to 16 and imposes similar age-gating restrictions. Furthermore, it prohibits platforms from targeting advertisements for children.
Tech Trade Group's Opposition to the Bills
Despite these advancements, tech trade group NetChoice voiced staunch opposition to the bills. Carl Szabo, NetChoice vice president and general counsel, argued that the decision of how children and teens use the internet should rest with parents and guardians, not the government.