KOBACH: Liberals Hijack Online Child Safety Bill, Handing Khan-trol To FTC


Kris W. Kobach Contributor
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A bill currently pending in Congress, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), would require social media companies to refrain from advertising age-restricted products, like tobacco and gambling, to minors and to let parents, schools and minors report certain harms. As originally proposed, it was a good bill.

Unfortunately, leftist lunatics hijacked the reasonable, commonsense legislation to advance their woke initiatives.

The latest version of the bill puts the desires of the LGBTQ community and progressive activists over the safety of children. It also puts the bill’s enforcement mechanism in the hands of the unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) instead of in the hands of state attorneys general as envisioned by the original proposal.

Democrat Sens. Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal requested the changes to appease leftist groups who claim that attorneys general will use their authority to censor LBGTQ “resources or stifle young people’s access to online communities.”

Progressive advocates want to keep Republican attorneys general from enforcing this proposed law so bad actors have access to your children free from parental interference. They aren’t keeping their goals a secret. In a letter opposing the use of state AGs to enforce the proposed law, a group of 90 left-wing organizations wrote:

Online services would face substantial pressure to over-moderate, including from state Attorneys General seeking to make political points about what kind of information is appropriate for young people. At a time when books with LGBTQ+ themes are being banned from school libraries and people providing healthcare to trans children are being falsely accused of ‘grooming,’ KOSA would cut off another vital avenue of access to information for vulnerable youth … and would have the practical effect of enabling parental surveillance of 15- and 16-year-olds.

“Parental surveillance” is a bad thing to these organizations. On the contrary, parents have every right and even an obligation to surveil their teenagers online. But in real world terms, the changed proposal cuts out Republicans, specifically Republican AGs, and gives all the authority to the FTC, which has become a woke, partisan machine under Biden-appointed Chair Lina Khan. 

Granting the FTC greater authority is problematic as well. It creates legal uncertainties, abrogating states’ rights and shrouding enforcement behind a wall of federal bureaucrats. 

Furthermore, this bill would give the FTC broad authority to determine what content is “harmful,” and without clear guidance on what constitutes compliance with the law. This lack of precision leaves a great amount of room for interpretation, setting the stage for overreach and arbitrary enforcement. And it is especially concerning because the FTC and other federal bureaucracies already have a record of expanding their mandate and regulating by enforcement when it comes to technology. It’s not difficult to imagine this new power becoming disruptive in ways not intended by Congress. 

For example, what happens when the FTC determines that it is not in the best interest of a child for parents to be able to see who their kids are messaging because Khan wants children to be able to explore online resources related to sexuality and gender? 

FTC bureaucrats are ill-equipped to navigate the nuanced landscape of local needs and standards of decency, whereas state attorneys general already oversee consumer protection issues within their states. More importantly, state attorneys general are directly accountable to their constituents, unlike the bureaucrats of the FTC. 

State AGs have been at the forefront of the battle to protect teens in their states. In Kansas, for example, we’re suing TikTok and Meta for exactly the same types of social media behavior that the Congressional bill aims to address. 

Fortunately, it’s not too late for Congress to change the bill back to its original form. Instead of centralizing enforcement and empowering broad regulatory authority in the FTC, Congress should prioritize a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach that leverages the expertise of state attorneys general in protecting kids and empowering their parents.

Kris W. Kobach is the Attorney General of Kansas.  He previously served as Kansas Secretary of State (2011-2019) and as a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law (1996-2011).

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.