As we’ve described here, the Senate made major strides last year on legislation to protect children’s privacy and safety online. Indeed, two bipartisan bills sailed through a Commerce Committee markup, though they didn’t ultimately make it to the floor for a Senate vote. This year, kids’ privacy is once again getting attention, beginning with a February 14 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue. Members used the hearing to tout last year’s bills and mention some new ones, too. They also touched on other top-of-mind issues involving the tech industry, such as Section 230 reform and encryption.
Of note, Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn discussed the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) (their bill from last year, just re-introduced), which would impose a “duty of care” on tech companies and shield young people from harmful content. Senator Hawley, in turn, talked up his Making Age-Verification Technology Uniform, Robust, and Effective Act (MATURE Act), which would enforce a minimum age requirement of 16 for users of social media platforms. (As noted below, panelists were quite skeptical that this would work.)
The event highlighted, once again, the bipartisan interest in tackling the harms that minors face online. Here’s more detail on what happened:
First up, opening remarks from Chairman Durbin (D-Ill.), Ranking Member Graham (R-S.C.), and Senators Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Blackburn (R-Tenn.)
Chairman Durbin kicked off the hearing by explaining that the internet and social media have become a threat to young people. He noted that while the Internet offers tremendous benefits, cyberbullies can hurt kids online via platforms like Facebook and Snapchat. Durbin stated that “we don’t have to take” the lucrative business that the platforms (who were not in attendance) have created to keep kids’ eyes glued to the screens. He said that the addictive nature of the platforms has created a mental health crisis – causing anxiety, stress, and body image issues, for example – which can lead to tragic results.
Continue Reading Senate Judiciary Hearing on Kid’s Privacy – Sunny with a Chance of Section 230 Reform