Senate Advances Kids’ Online Safety and Privacy Bills—Again

Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaks during a Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hearing on October 26, 2021. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Two bills that could change how websites interact with children and teens online—the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA)—stand a good chance to become law after approval from the Senate Commerce Committee prior to the August recess.

Both bills got close to the finish line last year before failing to make it into a year-end omnibus bill, but advocates for the kid-focused bills say public and media attention on children and teen mental health issues is creating more momentum.

“The biggest factor these bills have going for them is that people across the ideological spectrum have recognized that social media is harmful to kids, and that cuts across a lot of the typical ideological lines,” Clare Morell, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, tells The Dispatch.

COPPA 2.0, introduced by Sens. Ed Markey, a Democrat, and Bill Cassidy, a Republican, would revamp a law originally passed a quarter-century ago by raising the age at which companies are legally allowed to collect data from a user 13 to 16 years old and making it easier for the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to hold tech companies liable for failing to adhere to the privacy rules for accounts held by minors. KOSA, the brainchild of Sens. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, is more focused on safety, creating a new “duty of care” for platforms to “prevent and mitigate” harms to minors—from content pushing kids toward self-harm or sexual exploitation, for example.

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