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Senators Reveal Bipartisan Bill Targeting Big Tech Companies For Harms To Children

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Republican Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal unveiled a bipartisan bill Wednesday aimed at curbing online harms to children.

The Kids Online Safety Act is the result of several hearings and a months-long investigation led by Blackburn and Blumenthal into how use of social media platforms affects teens and young children. If enacted, the bill would require social media platforms to provide minors with options to protect their information, disable “addictive” product features and allow them to opt out of recommendation algorithms.

“Protecting our kids and teens online is critically important, particularly since COVID increased our reliance on technology,” Blackburn said in a statement. “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.”

US Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-CT asks questions to witnesses as they testify before the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights in a hearing to examine big data, focusing on implications for competition and consumers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 21, 2021. (Photo by KEN CEDENO/AFP via Getty Images)

US Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-CT asks questions to witnesses as they testify before the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights in a hearing to examine big data, focusing on implications for competition and consumers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 21, 2021. (Photo by KEN CEDENO/AFP via Getty Images)

The bill establishes a “duty of care” for major tech companies requiring them to act in the interests of minors and proactively moderate content that promotes self-harm, suicide, drug use, eating disorders and sexually explicit content. Platforms would also have to implement the most stringent safety settings for minors as the default option.

If enacted, the legislation would also impose transparency and disclosure requirements on platforms requiring them to disclose details on how a minor’s personal data is in recommendation algorithms. (RELATED: Facebook Suspends ‘Instagram Kids’ Following Investigation Into Platform’s Effect On Teens)

“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,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “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.”

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