Meta and TikTok face congressional sights over child-protection laws

A massive bipartisan push against Big Tech in the new Congress looks set to protect children. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was quoted as saying that passing them was a priority for him. I’m here. President Joe Biden recently said the same thing.

If this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings show any indication about protecting children online, they could pass. Witnesses testified about how children are being harmed by online content and platforms that help push it to audiences of mostly friendly senators. None of it has become law, but the new Congress seems keen to make it happen.

In recent years there has been a bipartisan and bipartisan consensus in Congress that something must be done about the power of big tech, but not what or how. There is disagreement about whether we are managing too much or not enough. Now they seem to have found their cause and the children who are their victims.

The desire to protect children from internet harm and abuse is stronger than ever in the 118th Congress, and it’s more likely that at least one law will actually be passed to do so. . But critics say these bills may not actually help children and may exist at the expense of free speech and privacy.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined forces with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) on a previous Congressional bill to remove Section 230 protections from online services. Revealed to reintroduce an EARN IT. You didn’t follow the list of best practices. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tn.) said she and Sen. Blumenthal should give children under 16 the tools to prevent the amplification of harmful content on social media platforms and their parents. Becoming Kids said it plans to reintroduce the Safe Her Online Act (KOSA). Ability to restrict children’s use of those platforms.

“A new parliament, a fresh start on this,” said Blackburn.

Senator Blumenthal also joined Judiciary Committee Chairs Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Mazzy Hirono (D-Hawaii) for allowing websites to remove data collected from children. Requests have just reintroduced the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act. Under 13 at their request.

This week’s hearings weren’t the only indication that child safety online is a priority for the new Congress. Schumer reportedly wants an online protection bill for children to be voted on this summer. I wanted to say a few things about the Internet.

“Ultimately, social media companies must be held accountable for conducting experiments that benefit our children,” he said. “And now is the time to pass bipartisan legislation to stop big tech companies from collecting personal data of children and teenagers online.”

“Ban targeted advertising to children!” Biden applauded.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has also spoken about this. On a conference call with reporters Monday, the new senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee said his main focus when it comes to Big Tech legislation is to stop content moderation, which he believes harms free speech. said he was talking to the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on Privacy Act. Privacy laws have bipartisan support, and laws that target children are the most likely to actually succeed in this session, Cruz said.

“That’s the easiest place to get bipartisan agreement,” Cruz said. “A comprehensive privacy bill would make it much harder to bring Democrats and Republicans together.”

As Cruise said, when it comes to legislation designed to protect children online, there’s reason to be optimistic that it will actually pass. The only federal consumer Internet privacy law we have is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Then there is Section 230. This gives the online platform an exemption for user-posted content. This vital protection was originally part of the Communications Decency Act intended to prevent children from viewing pornography online. remains (as does online porn).

But all these apparent endorsements don’t mean the bill is a slam-dunk to become law. , which seemed useless for EARN IT, KOSA, and Clean Slate to pass.

So there is no guarantee these bills will work out in Congress now, but there is renewed pressure to do so.California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code Act will go into effect in 2024. The law requires online services likely to be accessed by users under the age of 18 to obtain permission before collecting data and prohibits them from using that data in certain ways. increase. Basically, the website should be designed to provide maximum privacy to her users under the age of 18. California law is modeled after the English law of the same name. Several states are considering similar legislation.

However, not everyone is in favor of protecting children in this way. Internet privacy and free speech advocates criticize KOSA and his EARN IT, saying the law may actually do the opposite of what advocates claim . Opponents say EARN IT would force services to stop encrypting, expose user communications to law enforcement (or anyone else with access), or force the platform to monitor what users say publicly or privately. said it is possible. They also say it will not be an effective tool for its intended purpose of combating child sexual abuse material.

Critics of KOSA believe the law will exacerbate censorship of the platform and that it is arguably too broad, as the platform does not want to risk allowing anything that could cause problems. They also believe KOSA gives parents too much power over what their children (especially teens) can see and do, creating an age verification system on the platform. and may compromise the privacy of all users. Third parties who prove their age solely to use the Service.

Another danger with laws aimed at children like this is that Congress stops there. They may punt additional laws for children. The Communications Decency Act and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act were passed over 25 years ago. Technology has changed a lot since then. Law did not.

Bills that would limit some of the world’s biggest corporations, as evidenced by their limping to pass bipartisan and bicameral antitrust and privacy laws last year, would be a slam dunk for some. It is difficult for politicians. Bills that are supposed to protect children, on the other hand, are harder to vote against. But these bills may do more harm than good. It also provides a way for lawmakers to appear to be doing something about online harm to some people. You don’t have to do the harder work of figuring out how to provide these protections for everyone.

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