Senate Democrats Pledge New Online Protection Bill for Kids

Screengrab of Sen. Richard Blumenthal during tech hearing
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (Image credit: C-SPAN)

Some powerful lawmakers are telling Facebook it should pull the plug on plans for a kids‘ version of Instagram, not simply suspend them, and have signaled that Congress is stepping in regardless.

Facebook announced the pause on Monday (Sept. 27), but said it still thought a kid-targeted version of Instagram was a way to help prevent children under 13 from trying to access inappropriate apps.

The opposing view from lawmakers came in a joint statement from, among others, the lead senator for a hearing this week on the adverse impact of the adult/teen version of Instagram on young people, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Joining Blumenthal were Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), one of the leading voices for kids’ online privacy, as well as Reps. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.).

The legislators said that though they were glad Facebook had heeded their call to back off the kids’ version, a pause was not enough.

“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” they said in a joint statement. “Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know that Congress must step in.”

In this case, that step is the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which the lawmakers said they plan to introduce. The bill would give young internet users “the protections they need to navigate today’s online ecosystem without sacrificing their well-being.” 

They said it is critical legislation and called upon their colleagues to support it.

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.