Senators To Reintroduce KIDS Act ‘Influencer’ Regulation

Sen. Ed Markey
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) (Image credit: N/A)

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Thursday (Sept. 30) that he and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chairman Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will reintroduce their KIDS Act, which would remake online content targeted to kids.

Markey also called for banning influencer marketing to kids online, as selling by hosts is banned in children’s TV programming.

That came at a subcommittee hearing with the global head of safety for Facebook, Antigone Davis, where her company was hammered for, among other things, planning an Instagram Kids version of that site for children 12 and younger.

The Markey-Blumenthal bill would, among other things, ban auto-play settings, push alerts and reward “badges” on websites and/or apps for kids and young teens.

Also Read: Big Tech Bashed in Senate Hearing On Protecting Kids Online

It would also prohibit websites from recommending content with host-selling and influencer marketing, including “unboxing videos” to kids and young teens or from “exposing children and young teens to marketing with embedded interactive elements.”

Also Read: Senators Push for Research into Tech Impact on Kids

In questioning Davis, Markey said online platforms should not allow influencers to push products on children because they lack the ability to distinguish between ad and non-ad content. He pointed out that such host selling is not allowed on TV — per his own children’s TV legislation — and that that regime should apply to influencers as well.

If Facebook has taught us anything, he said, it is that self-regulation is not an option.

Asked if she supported the bill, Davis said it was certainly time for updated regulations and she would be happy to work with him and would follow up. He pointed out that the company had had access to the legislation — which was launched in March 2020 — for months.

"[E]very single Senator who called out Facebook today should support Senator Markey and Senator Blumenthal's KIDS Act...," said Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay (Formerly Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood). "[W]e need legislation to address the damaging design and predatory data collection practices of platforms like Instagram."

John Eggerton

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.