U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) recently joined U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in introducing the Kids Online Safety Act, comprehensive bipartisan legislation to protect children online and hold Big Tech accountable.
The Kids Online Safety Act provides young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms. The bill requires social media platforms to put the well-being of children first, ensuring an environment that is safe by default. The legislation requires independent audits by experts and academic researchers to ensure that social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids.
The Kids Online Safety Act has been cosponsored by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas.)
The Kids Online Safety Act is supported by hundreds of advocacy and technology groups, including Common Sense Media, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Compass, Eating Disorders Coalition, Fairplay, Mental Health America, and Digital Progress Institute.
The Kids Online Safety Act:
- 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.
- 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.
- Creates a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors, such as promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, tobacco/vaping, and unlawful products for minors (e.g. gambling and alcohol)
- 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.
- 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.
The one-page summary of the bill can be found here, the section-by-section summary can be found here, and the full text of the Senate bill can be found here.