Congressional initiatives aiming to improve children’s online safety in the USA raise concerns
US Congress aims to enhance children’s online safety and privacy by updating laws, restricting data collection from kids, and addressing harmful content. Critics raise concerns about privacy, free speech, and excessive content moderation.
US Congress aims to enhance children’s online safety and privacy by calling out social media algorithms that promote behavioral disorders, self-harm, and substance misuse.
Senators Ed Marke and Bill Cassidy are two of the sponsors of the ‘Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0),’ which intends to restrict internet platforms from gathering information from kids without their agreement. It is claimed that the bill updated a decades-old statute for children under the age of 13. At the same time, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn are rooting for the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which aims to establish a duty of care to safeguard minors from bullying, harassment, content encouraging suicide, substance misuse, eating disorders, and sexual exploitation. In addition, a set of bills aimed at reducing instances of online child sexual exploitation was recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators Brian Schatz and Tom Cotton proposed a bill that suggests implementing an age verification mandate for social media, preventing individuals under 13 from accessing such platforms.
Critics expressed their concerns about potential violations of privacy and free speech rights, increased data collection, compromised encryption, excessive content moderation, and the blocking of non-harmful content. The international non-profit organization Electronic Frontier Foundation emphasized that such laws give the government too much power to decide what may be safe for children. Senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, Cody Venzke, stressed that it would be difficult for online platforms to comply with laws without potentially removing useful content for children or adults.