Congressman aims to protect minors from online commercialization

Kate Grise Contributor
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Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. of Tennessee has introduced legislation that will prevent social media sites from using pictures of minors posted to their sites for commercial purposes, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

Taking users’ page likes and using them for commercial advertisements has become a staple of social media advertising, which further exposes children on the internet, according to Duncan.

“Children spend way too much time attached to their computers and over-share online,” Duncan said in a statement. “They need to be protected online, not put in harm’s way as a way for a website to make money.”

Duncan explained that he heard complaints that social media sites are using people’s images without permission after they had ‘liked’ a particular site or product, and his bill aims to protect underage users’ images from being used without their consent.

The Forbidding Advertisement Through Child Exploitation Act, introduced Wednesday, aims to protect underage users from becoming targets of online predators when their information is broadcast commercially without their consent or even knowledge. When a user likes a company’s social media page, the company turns around and promotes themselves using that user’s like as an endorsement.

“Limiting the amount of outside attention a child’s social media profile receives makes them less vulnerable to predators,” Duncan said. “Parents should not have to worry if their child’s face is being used on the internet to sell products.”

Seven states, including Duncan’s home state of Tennessee, have similar laws that aim to protect minors, and FACE would expand many of those protections nationally.

Scott Michelman, an attorney for Public Citizen, supports the bill, saying that the commercial use of minors’ photos hurts a guardian’s ability to parent their child, not to mention is an invasion of privacy.

“A federal law that offers protections to minors’ privacy at a national level would be a good thing in that it would enhance the protection for minor children’s privacy in the other 43 states that don’t have specific protections,” Michelman said.

Facebook released a statement Wednesday that addressed privacy concerns but did not directly address the legislation.

“At Facebook, we take privacy and safety very seriously — particularly the unique needs of teens,” the statement said. “We build special protections for young people into all of our products, including tools that limit their visibility, restrict their sharing and prevent unwanted contact from others. Our priority is to ensure that when teens are on our site, the information they share is secure and their privacy is protected.”

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Kate Grise