Senate Commerce to Mark Up Kids Online Safety Bill

Capitol Building

The bipartisan, bicameral efforts to rein in edge provider data collecting and sharing practices just keep on coming.

Only hours after the House Energy & Commerce Committee marked up and favorably reported the legislative framework for a comprehensive data privacy bill (the American Data Privacy and Protection Act), Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) were applauding the decision by the Senate Commerce Committee to mark up their Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (S. 1628).

The markup has been scheduled for July 27.

“The Commerce Committee’s markup of the Kids Online Safety Act will bring us closer to holding Big Tech accountable for putting profits above kids’ safety,” said Blumenthal in a statement. 

Also: New Bill Would Break Up Big Tech Ad Giants

The bill, which the pair introduced in February came after hearings headed by the legislators on Big Tech's "repeated failures to protect children & teens from serious dangers on their platforms," as they put it at the time.

The legislation does the following:

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “Creates a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors, such as promotion of self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and unlawful products for minors (e.g. gambling and alcohol).
  4.  “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.
  5. “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.”

Also: Blumenthal Says Facebook Weaponizes Childhood Suffering

"Protecting our kids and teens online is critically important,” said Sen. Blackburn in a joint statement with Blumenthal. “I have heard firsthand countless stories of physical and emotional damage of teen suicide and mental health issues affecting young users, along with 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."

Also: Blumenthal Presses TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat for Documents

The American Data and Privacy Protection Act also has a protections for kids, banning knowingly targeting advertising to anyone under 17. ▪️

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.