Measure Holds Big Tech Accountable, Gives Parents & Kids Tools to Ward Off Harmful Content

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today cosponsored comprehensive legislation to protect children online and hold Big Tech accountable.

The Kids Online Safety Act of 2023 (S.1409) seeks to provide young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms, while requiring social media platforms to actively implement measures to make their sites safer.

“Kids today face enough pressures and dangers without social media platforms exposing them to material that harms their wellbeing, whether intentionally or not,” Hyde-Smith said.  “The Kids Online Safety Act begins to balance the scales for parents and their children, while holding these tech companies more accountable.”

U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) authored the bipartisan legislation, which is based on findings of the repeated failures by tech giants to protect kids on their platforms and the online dangers faced by youth and children.  Hyde-Smith is among 32 original cosponsors.

S.1409, summarized here, would: 

  • Require social media platforms to provide minors with options to protect their information, disable addictive product features, and opt out of algorithmic recommendations.  Platforms would be required to enable the strongest settings by default.
  • Give parents new controls to help support their children and identify harmful behaviors, and provide parents and children with a dedicated channel to report harms to kids to the platform. 
  • Create a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors, such as promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and unlawful products for minors (e.g. gambling and alcohol).
  • Require social media platforms to perform an annual independent audit assessing the risks to minors, their compliance with this legislation, and whether the platform is taking meaningful steps to prevent those harms. 
  • Provide academic and public interest organizations with access to critical datasets from social media platforms to foster research regarding harms to the safety and well-being of minors. 

Hundreds of advocacy and technology groups support the legislation, Common Sense Media, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Compass, Eating Disorders Coalition, Fairplay, Mental Health America, and Digital Progress Institute.