WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: Growing Momentum For The Kids Online Safety Act

February 15, 2024

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – On the heels of the Senate’s hearing with Big Tech CEOs, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), lead sponsors of the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, announced growing U.S. Senate support for the bill, with 62 senators now cosponsoring the legislation. Following conversations with stakeholders and colleagues, Blumenthal and Blackburn also announced new bill supporters and several changes that have been made to strengthen the legislation and ensure it becomes law. 

The legislation is strongly supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including parents who have tragically lost their children or whose kids have been severely harmed by Big Tech, young people who want to regain control over their online lives, and hundreds of advocacy groups and experts who study and see the negative effects of social media firsthand in their communities. The growing group of bill supporters includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Nintendo of America, Christian Camp and Conference Association, Microsoft, The Foundation United, Parents for Safe Online Spaces (ParentsSOS), Snap, Street Grace, and X.

What They Are Saying:

“The Kids Online Safety Act is needed now more than ever.  It is troubling that in the last 20 years, Congress has not adequately addressed privacy, bias, and transparency in the use and construction of algorithms. The NAACP supports KOSA because the absence of regulation has had a profound effect on Black communities, particularly children and young people. Industry will always argue that regulation is unnecessary because it stifles innovation. To the contrary, the last 20 years reflect industry doing everything it can to evade regulation. In the same period, privacy has eroded, online hate content, mis- and disinformation have grown. Innovation must be balanced with the needs of people, particularly kids.  KOSA will provide this balance by providing families with the tools and transparency needed to safeguard wellbeing,” said Patrice Willoughby, NAACP SVP of Global Policy and Impact.

“Parents who have lost their children have rallied around the Kids Online Safety Act because it is the only federal legislation that will address the full gamut of harms that have become all too common on social media,” said Maurine Molak, co-founder of ParentsSOS, an initiative of Fairplay and David’s Legacy Foundation. “We are thrilled to see the new text, new endorsements and new co-sponsors and ready to do whatever it takes to get this bill to the finish line to ensure no other family suffers what we have. We thank Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn for introducing this critical legislation and urge Leader Schumer to bring this wildly popular, lifesaving bipartisan legislation to the floor.”

“The Kids Online Safety Act will protect young people from harmful design and programming decisions, while explicitly safeguarding youth autonomy to explore online. As a parent, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and an attorney working with children and families harmed by certain online platforms, I have investigated accounts and associated data for multiple 16-year-olds who asked platforms to send them uplifting content only to receive overwhelming amounts of self-harm and suicide. Those children are now gone. This is the status quo for millions of American children and these are the types of harms the Kids Online Safety Act will address to protect kids online,” said Laura Marquez-Garrett, Attorney at the Social Media Victims Law Center.

“The Kids Online Safety Act is our best chance to address social media’s toxic business model which has claimed far too many children’s lives and helped spur a mental health crisis,” said Josh Golin, ParentsSOS co-founder and executive director of Fairplay. “We are grateful to Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn for drafting this lifesaving legislation and to Leader Schumer, Chair Cantwell and Ranking Member Cruz for their commitment to creating a safer, less addictive internet for children. The bill has an astonishing 62 co-sponsors – a testament to the tireless advocacy of the parents who have lost their children to online harms and are determined to make historic change so that no other family experiences what they have.”

“We’re proud to be part of the fight for a bill that prioritizes us and requires that online spaces are designed with us in mind. Big Tech has shown time and again that they cannot and will not self regulate, and we’re thankful for the growing bipartisan support to hold Big Tech accountable. We’ve made clear the pain, grief, and loss of parents and young people have endured by social media platforms that are designed to addict us for maximum profit. We have the momentum to finally pass legislation through Congress to protect kids online and enact it into law,” said Zamaan Qureshi (21), Co-Chair of Design It For Us.

“Big Tech not only facilitates the sexual exploitation of children, companies have themselves become perpetrators of harm and abuse. Digital platforms are dangerous by design. KOSA will fix that,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). 

“The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) makes it clear to Big Tech, that ‘Childhood is Not for Sale.’ With the explosion of AI-driven algorithms, Big Tech is profiting by the billions from the commodification of children online, leading to countless forms of exploitation and harm so severe that children are dying. KOSA’s ability to target the harmful design mechanisms of social media platforms makes it the most reasonable form of child protection legislation I have witnessed. Tech companies that stand against KOSA, stand against America’s children and families at large,” said Jason Frost, LL.M, CEO of Wired Human.

“As a former Director of Human Trafficking Programs and acting Director of the Office for Victims of Crime in the U.S. Department of Justice, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of online exploitation on our children. The passage of the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) is not just a legislative priority; it is a moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from further victimization and exploitation. The digital landscape is constantly evolving, and with it, the tactics used by predators to exploit our children. KOSA represents a critical step forward in closing the gaps that have allowed such exploitation to flourish unchecked. By mandating robust protections, transparency, and accountability measures for online platforms, we can significantly reduce the risks faced by minors every day. This legislation is essential for preventing harm and ensuring a safer online environment for all children. The time to act is now; we cannot afford to delay in safeguarding the well-being and future of our young ones,” said Bill Woolf, Principal of The Woolf Group (TWG).

“For too long social media platforms have prioritized their financial interests over the well-being of young users. Meta, TikTok, YouTube, Snap and other companies should be held accountable for the safety of America’s youth,” said Katharina Kopp, Ph.D., Director of Policy at the Center for Digital Democracy. “They must be required to prevent harms to kids—such as eating disorders, violence, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and the exploitation of their privacy. The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) would require platforms to implement the most protective privacy and safety settings by default. It would help prevent the countless tragic results experienced by too many children and their parents. We are in support of the updated language of the Kids Online Safety Act and urge Congress to pass the bill promptly.”

“For far too long, we have allowed children to be exploited online by multi-billion dollar Tech Companies that designed their products to addict and monetize kids but too poorly to protect their safety. After over a decade of damage and harms to countless kids from this negligence, enough is enough. KOSA represents the beginning of our Democracy stepping up to defend our kids by setting a standard for age appropriate design of products. Now, like any other mature industry, Tech companies and social media will have liability for the harms they incur through their ongoing negligence. I applaud the many cosponsors of this Bill and look forward to the day it is passed and signed into law. A day that cannot come soon enough for the children of America,” said Tim Estes, CEO of Angel AI.

“The groundswell of support and thoughtful revisions to the Kids Online Safety Act is a testament to the incredible movement we have created to protect children and teens online. We could not do this work without the leadership of Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn and Chair Cantwell and Ranking Member Cruz. The EDC will remain steadfast in our work to advance this historic piece of legislation to ensure a safer environment for current and future generations,” said Dr. Christine Peat, President, Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy, & Action.

“Young Americans are suffering from a profound mental health crisis caused by addiction to social media. Big Tech companies have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will not reform themselves, but instead, driven by profits, they will do all they can to keep unfettered access to children. The Kids Online Safety Act gives parents and young Americans more effective tools to gain control over their experiences on these platforms to make them more age-appropriate, allowing them to disable the most addictive features. It also imposes upon these Big Tech companies a ‘duty of care’ to ensure that they are not designing their platforms to exploit children. It is time to pass the Kids Online Safety Act. The children of America desperately need it,” said Michael Toscano, Executive Director of the Institute for Family Studies.

“Parents have been left on their own to try to fend off a massive tech-induced health crisis among today’s tweens and teens, contending against the allure of products engineered to be maximally addictive to their kids. KOSA offers a much-needed solution to ensure parents have the ability to protect their kids online from content that hurts their development and mental health. KOSA will grant children and parents more control over children’s experiences on the platforms and what they see; and prevent tech companies from taking those choices away with the design of their automatic features or algorithms,” said Clare Morell, Head of the Technology and Human Flourishing program for the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC). 

“Some folks like to make a flawed argument that parents and only parents should be concerned with the safety and well-being of their children online — that tech companies and government should bear no responsibility. This is completely unreasonable. Screens are everywhere. Parents obviously cannot shoulder this responsibility alone. Tech platforms specifically should bear responsibility for how they are interacting with minor users and what kinds of content they are making available to them. The Kids Online Safety Act is an important bill that aims to protect kids from some of the worst aspects of the Internet, while providing parents with stronger tools to better direct their children’s online experience. American Principles Project calls on the Senate to pass this legislation as soon as possible,” said Jon Schweppe, Policy Director for American Principles Project.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has long supported the Kids Online Safety Act as a needed policy to make digital spaces healthier and safer for children and teens. Today’s action unveiling robust bipartisan support and strengthened legislative text is a major milestone. We urge the Senate to seize this opportunity and bring the bill to the floor without delay,” said Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“KOSA’s targeted bipartisan approach ensures that parents have the ability to protect their kids online from content that hurts their development and mental health. This is something everyone should be able to get behind,” said Joel Thayer, President of the Digital Progress Institute. 

“Senator Blackburn and Senator Blumenthal are leading the way with a bipartisan solution to protect children’s mental health and online safety with the introduction of the Kids Online Safety Act,” said Erich Mische, Executive Director of SAVE-Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. “We can no longer ignore the preponderance of evidence linking suicidal ideation and suicide that is connected to the worsening mental health of America’s children because of trauma being inflicted on them by social media platforms. Big Tech is today’s Big Tobacco when it comes to damaging the health of America’s children. SAVE is prepared to work with any social media platform that is genuinely committed to putting children first when it comes to their product.  The Kids Online Safety Act is a significant step for America’s parents who are demanding that policymakers hold social media platforms accountable for the products they create and market to our children.”

“As former Internet Crimes Against Children Commanders, we have seen firsthand how our online world has adversely impacted children. The damage to our children has come in many forms, and we must act to protect them. When online, our children are in harm’s way, and it has been proven that the Tech industry cannot voluntarily keep our children safe. The passing of KOSA will ensure that our children are safe in the world we live in which is online,” said John Pizzuro CEO of Raven.

“This is a very significant step forward toward our long sought goal of protecting kids online. Today, enough senators have indicated their support for the Kids Online Safety Act that it will pass when brought to the floor for a vote. We encourage Leader Schumer to arrange a vote as quickly as possible on KOSA, and on the update to the federal children’s privacy law, COPPA, and we appreciate his support to get to this point today,” said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. “Attention will quickly turn to the House of Representatives, which will either join the Senate, the millions of parents across the country and hundreds of organizations, like Common Sense Media and others, and stand up for kids online once and for all, or they will be viewed as the reason Congress failed to make the internet healthier and safer for kids, teens, and families. We encourage the House, and the entire Congress, to be on the right side of history. The changes made to the bill and announced today appear to continue to preserve the rights of states to take stronger actions than Congress if they want to, and of course dozens of states are actively working on legislation to protect kids online. That is very important. But let me be perfectly clear about one thing – I’ve been at this a long time and I’ve seen time and again that the tech industry, minus a very few important players, will oppose any tech regulations – anytime and anywhere. The tech industry and its trade associations are not to be trusted on the question of protecting kids online and Congress needs to move ahead and put these guardrails in place now. We applaud the bi-partisan Senators who have gotten us to this next stop on a long, long road and we are encouraged by the direction this critical effort to protect kids has taken.”

“Enough Is Enough calls on Congress to pass the Kids Online Safety Act without delay. This bipartisan child protection bill, which has 62 co-sponsors, will create accountability for the multi-billion-dollar technology platforms by establishing a ‘duty of care’ to keep children safe online and put safety over corporate profits. The measure would also provide parents with the tools, safeguards and transparency they need to protect their children from online harm. The testimonies of countless families and individuals whose lives have been torn apart over a life taken or destroyed as a result of social media’s promotion of eating disorders, suicide, substance abuse or sexual exploitation should move this Congress into immediate action. It is evident from decades of industry’s failure to self-regulate that immediate legislation is needed to Rein In Big Tech once and for all, for the sake of children worldwide,” said Donna Rice Hughes, CEO and President of Enough Is Enough.

“As the CEO of Safe House Project, I wholeheartedly support the Kids Online Safety Act. Protecting our youth from online exploitation, grooming, and trafficking is paramount. The internet should be a space for growth and learning, not a playground for predators. This legislation is a crucial step in safeguarding our children, ensuring their digital experiences are secure, and empowering them to navigate the online world with confidence and resilience. Together, let’s build a safer future for our kids—one where their innocence is preserved, and their potential is limitless,” said Kristi Wells, CEO of Safe House Project.

“As the Executive Director for a long-term residential treatment center that serves children who have been trafficked and exploited, we believe the KOSA is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting the vulnerabilities of children online. In our experience, many of the young girls who find themselves in our care, are first exposed to dangers online. Equipping parents and bringing accountability in the virtual world, can make a huge impact in protecting them in the real one,” said Amber Sharp, Executive Director of The Haven.

“The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) is a powerful tool in the fight to protect our children from online dangers. It is a crucial step towards creating safer online spaces for minors, shielding them from the devastating harms of sexual exploitation and online bullying. The HER Campaign stands firmly behind this Act, as it directly addresses the prevention of online harms that can facilitate human trafficking. By mandating platforms to implement measures that safeguard minors, KOSA strengthens the digital environment against those who seek to exploit and prey on vulnerable children. It is imperative we support this Act, empowering parents and ensuring a brighter, safer future for our young ones,” said Britney Higgs, Founder and CEO of HER Campaign.

“I was a young teen at the start of social media and I am confident that my trafficker was overjoyed when he discovered that he could target and groom a vulnerable 13 year old girl without her ever leaving her living room. Now, 20 years later, the 13 year old girls I work with every day are equally as vulnerable, even more accessible, and the traffickers, even more tech savvy. My trafficker had to take 6 months to break me, to mold me into compliance, now, through social media, I am seeing young girls put out into the most heinous forms of trafficking in a matter of weeks or days. We owe it to our youth to learn from our mistakes and to be just as ardent in our desire to protect them as we are to expand our online infrastructures. Anything less is unacceptable,” said Alia Azariah, Survivor-Leader and Director of Aftercare for Safe House Project.

“As CEO of UNITAS North America, I cannot stress enough the urgency and necessity of passing the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). In today’s digital age, safeguarding our children’s welfare extends far beyond the physical locks on our doors. It’s about ensuring we possess the keys to securely lock the doors to the online world, where dangers are just as real and pervasive. Failing to pass KOSA would be a significant oversight, one that overlooks the intricate ways in which the internet is woven into the fabric of our children’s lives. It’s no longer just about physical safety; it’s about protecting their mental, emotional, and psychological well-being in the vast, often unmonitored expanse of the internet. This legislation is a critical tool in our collective effort to shield our youth from exploitation and harm, offering a foundation upon which we can build a safer digital environment for all. The passage of KOSA is imperative—it’s about taking decisive action to protect our children in every sphere of their lives,” said Tonya Turner, CEO of UNITAS North America. 

“As a survivor-leader and advocate, I find the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) incredibly encouraging. This bill signifies a monumental step forward in our fight against human trafficking by focusing on prevention, which I firmly believe is the key to combating this heinous crime. The inclusion of parental and caregiver education within the bill is an excellent addition, recognizing the crucial role that informed adults play in safeguarding our children from online predators. KOSA addresses the critical need for awareness and tools that empower parents and caregivers to effectively protect their children in the digital age. It brings hope and a proactive approach to prevention, aligning with what many of us in the survivor community have long advocated for. The passage of this bill would mark a significant advancement in our collective efforts to protect the most vulnerable from exploitation and victimization,” said Amber Kehl, Survivor-Leader & Advocate. 

“The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) is exactly what we need to protect our children & loved ones from online predators. It assists parents with their work of protecting their children & allows for outside enforcement & monitoring, all of which have been long-awaited & desperately needed,” said Susan Munsey, Founder & Director of Programs for Generate Hope.

“In our global work with Law Enforcement combatting human trafficking crime, our data shows that over 70% of our cases of human trafficking in the last two years involved a component of social media. We see it time and again, child traffickers heavily depend on online platforms to sustain their uninterrupted cycle of supply and demand, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. KOSA is strategically addressing this issue. It is building a safer digital world where children can learn, connect, and grow without the looming threats that currently pervade these spaces. We must protect our children during their critical years of development; our duty to the next generation demands it,” said Laura Parker, CEO of The Exodus Road.

“This bill is vital to stopping the spread of sex trafficking in the United States. We know that online predation is often the beginning. Stopping the exploitation and harm of children will absolutely lessen the number of adult victims of trafficking. Please take this vital step, work together, and make the United States be that leader, and city of light on a hill,” said Elizabeth Ameling, CEO of Free Forever – Latisha’s House. 

“Ensuring that youth and young adults can engage in online environments and communities in a safe, productive, and rewarding way is vitally important for their mental health and wellbeing,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “This is why the Kids Online Safety Act is such a meaningful first step towards making social media a safer space for our children. Unfortunately, we know that children and youth can be exposed to harmful content online that can negatively impact their mental health, often augmenting existing risk factors and contributing to a child’s suicide risk. AFSP is proud to support the Kids Online Safety Act and is grateful to Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn for leading this charge to protect and support our country’s children and their families.”

“The harmful effects of social media on American kids are now self-evident. And Congress’s role in holding Big Tech accountable for these impacts has never been more clear. From its transparency requirements to its expansion and strengthening of parental controls, KOSA empowers parents and holds Big Tech companies accountable for deliberately designing systems and products that target younger and younger audiences. Overall, this legislation provides a strong foundation on which to build additional measures to keep kids safe online,” said Kara Frederick, Director of the Heritage Foundation Tech Policy Center.

“It’s no secret that big tech companies prey on children’s personal data to keep them addicted to scrolling, regardless of the negative impact on kids and the dangerous content that’s far too easy for them to access. Social media has proven to lead to deteriorated mental health, bullying, harassment, and sexual exploitation. Protecting children and young adults from those threats is one of the biggest issues of our time—Heritage Action applauds Sen. Blackburn for taking up the mantle. The Kids Online Safety Act is an important, unifying bill that holds big tech accountable for their greed and protects American children from exploitation,” said Ryan Walker, Heritage Action Executive Vice President.

“Street Grace is a proud supporter of KOSA. We envision a world where no child is exploited and KOSA puts America on that path by adding transparency and accountability to the sites and platforms which are currently advertising to children with zero safeguards in place,” said Bob Rodgers, CEO of Street Grace. “Part of what we do at Street Grace’s is educate parents on how to keep kids safe online; KOSA will make online safety a ‘default setting.’”

“Social media platforms have repeatedly proven they care more about profits than the well-being and safety of children,” said Chris Griswold, Policy Director at American Compass. “Silicon Valley executives knowingly subject kids to dangerous content, deliberately addictive product design, and the manipulation of kid’s emotional and mental health rather than place their revenue streams at risk. This will not change until leaders make it change—which is exactly what the Kids Online Safety Act would start to do. Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal deserve great credit for stepping up in defense of America’s children.”  

In close coordination with stakeholders and Congressional colleagues, several changes were made to strengthen the legislation and clarify the language. The updated bill text can be found here. A new landing page for the legislation, with the latest information about the bill and helpful resources, can be found here and here