Biden Faces Big Tech: Can He Save Our Kids Online?

President Joe Biden's 2023 State of the Union address ignited a call to action in Congress to enact legislation aimed at safeguarding the online safety of youth. However, despite the urgency conveyed by Biden, progress has been slow, disappointing parental advocates who are eagerly awaiting tangible results.

Following Biden's appeal, the past year has witnessed a flurry of lobbying efforts, with parents and teenagers sharing heartbreaking accounts of the harm inflicted by social media platforms. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized to parents for the detrimental impact of Facebook and Instagram on their children.

Several bills addressing these pressing issues are pending Senate consideration, but none have yet been passed. Kris Perry, Executive Director of the Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, described the past year as a "watershed moment" highlighting a decade of misuse of adult-targeted products by children, leading to significant harm.

President Biden emphasized the need to hold social media companies accountable during his address, urging bipartisan legislation to restrict data collection on minors, prohibit targeted advertising to children, and impose stricter limits on personal data collection.

Biden's message resonated with advocacy groups like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and teenager-led coalitions, fostering growing interest in improving online safety for young people.

Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal championed the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which received support from various stakeholders and aims to compel social media platforms to mitigate defined harms to minors.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced multiple bills addressing online safety, including the EARN IT Act and COPPA 2.0, but some lawmakers express frustration over Senate inaction.

A pivotal Senate Judiciary Committee hearing grilled tech company CEOs about their efforts to protect children online, sparking hope for the passage of legislation like KOSA or EARN IT.

However, challenges persist, with Sen. Brian Schatz's Protecting Kids on Social Media Act complicating matters by proposing age restrictions on social media use without parental consent.

As Congress faces competing priorities and the approach of the 2024 campaigns, the window for passing vital legislation on online safety narrows. The battle to protect the youth online continues, with the outcome uncertain.

Written by Staff Reports

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