July 25, 2022. Leading advocates push lawmakers to pass children’s privacy bills

David Monahan, Fairplay ([email protected])

Leading advocates push lawmakers to pass children’s privacy bills

Letter from more than 100 organizations in tech advocacy, children’s rights, and health urges the Senate Commerce Committee to advance KOSA and COPPA to a full floor vote

BOSTON, MA —Monday, July 25, 2022 —Today, a coalition of 113 leading advocates sent a letter urging members of the Senate Commerce Committee to advance two closely-watched children’s privacy bills, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Children and Teens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The coalition is led by Fairplay, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense Media, the Eating Disorders Coalition, and Mental Health America. 

Citing the growing youth mental health crisis and research on the effects of social media and time spent online, the coalition’s letter outlined the need for Big Tech regulation and more robust privacy protections for young people. The letter describes the severe impact that excess time on digital media can have on young people’s brain development and overall wellbeing, noting a recent report from Fairplay that showed that Instagram’s algorithm promoted pro-eating disorder content to children as young as nine.  

The coalition’s letter comes during a burst of momentum on legislative efforts to strengthen online privacy protections for children and teens on both the federal and state level. If passed, both KOSA and COPPA would prevent online platforms from exploiting young users’ developmental vulnerabilities and targeting them in unfair and harmful ways. KOSA establishes a “duty of care” for social media platforms accessed by young people, requiring companies to mitigate any harms experienced by children and teens on their platforms. COPPA would expand privacy protections to teens for the first time and ban surveillance advertising to users under 17.

Other organizations among the 113 signing today’s letter include the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Federation of Teachers, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health. 

Please see below for statements from representatives of the signatories to the letter. 

“This has been an historic summer for the movement to hold Big Tech accountable for its harms to children. For far too long, the industry has been allowed to regulate itself at the expense of American children’s health, safety, and even their lives. The advancement of KOSA and COPPA would be hugely important for millions of American families and children – we implore Congress to act.” – Josh Golin, executive director, Fairplay

“Young people are subjected to constant surveillance and manipulation by social media platforms and other digital services. On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee has a historic opportunity to ensure children receive critical online safeguards. By supporting two pieces of bi-partisan legislation—the ‘Children and Teens Online Protection Act’ and the ‘Kids Online Safety Act’—senators will help protect the privacy, safety and well-being of America’s youth.”—Jeff Chester, executive director, the Center for Digital Democracy

“There are no effective guardrails on tech companies today that protect kids and teens from the online harms we know they experience. Taken together, COPPA 2.0 and KOSA will create a safer and healthier internet for kids and teens, including by giving them strong privacy protections, banning targeted ads to kids, and requiring companies to address harms posed to minors on their platforms, such as by implementing default privacy-protective settings.  We are very encouraged to see action in the Senate Commerce Committee on these two vital pieces of bipartisan kids and tech legislation. We urge the members of the Committee to be on the right side of history in the fight to protect our next generation and vote YES on COPPA 2.0 and KOSA.”– Jim Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media

“If we have learned anything over the past year since the whistleblower hearings in Congress, it is that social media platforms will not solve this very serious social problem on their own. Their business model, which has proven itself to be exquisitely profitable, is self-reinforcing for investors and top management, as they generate billions of dollars each year in ad revenue from children on their platforms. The industry has for many years aggressively guarded the secrecy of its predatory algorithms, keeping them out of reach and spared from scrutiny by the public, researchers, and government. Taken together, these two bipartisan bills signal a vitally needed change and if passed into law, would finally put in place long-overdue protections for children online.”– S. Bryn Austin, ScD, Past President, Eating Disorders Coalition, and Director, Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders