Members of Congress have introduced several bills to bolster online protections for children and teens. One proposed measure, the Kids Online Safety Act or KOSA, would compel online services like social media networks, video game sites, and messaging apps to implement “reasonable measures” to prevent harm to minors using their platforms, including online bullying, harassment, sexual exploitation, anorexia, self-harm, and predatory marketing. This act would also mandate the activation of the highest privacy and safety settings by default for users under 18 and empower young people to limit or opt out of features like personalized newsfeeds, smartphone notifications, and autoplaying videos that lead to compulsive app use. Cosponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal, KOSA has garnered support from numerous senators, children’s groups, and medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. In a notable move, Snap, the company that owns Snapchat, has become the first social media giant to endorse KOSA.
However, the far-reaching bill is facing significant opposition. Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have objected to it on the grounds of free speech. Specifically, these groups are concerned that the bill’s broad and vague definition of harm could compel social media and other apps to censor content on politically divisive issues such as reproductive health or gender identity.