Reps Bilirakis, Castor, Houchin, and Schrier Introduce Comprehensive Bill to Better Protect Kids Online

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House Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee Chairman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), together with Representatives Kathy Castor (D-FL), Erin Houchin (R-IN), and Kim Schrier (D-WA) have introduced the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). This comprehensive legislation will provide kids and parents with the safeguards, tools, and transparency they need to better protect against serious online threats to children’s health and emotional wellbeing. A companion to this legislation authored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has been marked up in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. KOSA delineates a series of required safeguards that Big Tech must take to protect minors under the age of 17.  Specially, the bill would:

  • Outline a set of harms to children under the age of 17 requiring Big Tech companies and large online video games to take reasonable measures to prevent and mitigate, including promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and certain unlawful products for minors (i.e., narcotic drugs, tobacco products, gambling, and alcohol).
  • Empower parents and inform policymakers about individual social media platforms’ efforts to implement meaningful steps to reduce risks to kids by requiring independent audits and supporting access to important data for experts and academic researchers.
  • Direct covered entities to implement controls to protect against stalking and exploitation of children.
  • Require covered platforms to provide parents with tools to help manage a minor’s use of a platform, including options to control safety settings, track their time, limit purchases, and address harmful usage. Those tools must be enabled by default.
  • Implement a reporting mechanism by directing covered platforms to establish a dedicated reporting channel to alert the platform to harms to minors, and requires them to substantively respond in a reasonable and timely manner, taking into account the size of the platform and the urgency of the request.
  • Ensure that covered platforms offer controls and options in a manner that is easy to use and does not encourage parents or kids to weaken their privacy or safety, and prohibits the use of ‘dark patterns’ that mislead or confuse consumers.  These controls and options must be provided in the same language and manner that the minor uses the platform.
  • Improve transparency by requiring an annual public report identifying the risks of harm to minors, based on an independent, third-party audit conducted through reasonable inspection of the covered platform, and describing the prevention and mitigation measures taken by the platform.
  • Directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct a study evaluating the most technologically feasible options for developing systems to verify age at the device or operating system level, with an emphasis on the privacy of minors.
  • Require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Education to issue guidance to support covered platforms on compliance and address emerging harms to minors, as well as to assist schools in taking advantage of the protections offered under the Act within 18 months of the bill’s enactment.
  • Create a Kids Online Safety Council for the purpose of providing advice on the implementation of this Act. The Council will be made up of parents, experts, representatives from covered platforms, federal agencies, state Attorneys General, youth voices, and underserved communities.

Bilirakis, Castor, Houchin, and Schrier Introduce Comprehensive Bill to Better Protect Kids Online