WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) Ranking Member and Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, today introduced the Kids Online Safety Act, comprehensive bipartisan legislation to enhance children’s safety online. The bill’s introduction follows reporting and a series of five subcommittee hearings spearheaded by Blackburn and Blumenthal with social media companies and advocates on the repeated failures by tech giants to protect kids on their platforms and about the dangers kids face online.
“Protecting our kids and teens online is critically important, particularly since COVID increased our reliance on technology,” said Blackburn. “In hearings over the last year, Senator Blumenthal and I have heard countless stories of physical and emotional damage affecting young users, and Big Tech’s unwillingness to change. The Kids Online Safety Act will address those harms by setting necessary safety guiderails for online platforms to follow that will require transparency and give parents more peace of mind.”
“This measure makes kids’ safety an internet priority,” said Blumenthal. “Big Tech has brazenly failed children and betrayed its trust, putting profits above safety. Seared in my memory—and motivating my passion—are countless harrowing stories from Connecticut and across the country about heartbreaking loss, destructive emotional rabbit holes, and addictive dark places rampant on social media. The Kids Online Safety Act would finally give kids and their parents the tools and safeguards they need to protect against toxic content—and hold Big Tech accountable for deeply dangerous algorithms. Algorithms driven by eyeballs and dollars will no longer hold sway. I will fight for swift passage alongside Senator Blackburn, my partner in this effort.”
The Kids Online Safety Act provides kids and parents with tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against threats to children’s health and well-being online. The legislation requires social media platforms to put the interests of children first, providing an environment that is safe by default and help prevent these destructive impacts. The legislation also requires independent audits and supports public scrutiny from experts and academic researchers to ensure that parents and policymakers know whether social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids.
The Kids Online Safety Act has been endorsed by a number of advocacy and technology groups, including Common Sense Media, the American Psychological Association, and 5Rights Foundation.
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 self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, 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.