Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee favorably advanced three bills that would impose stronger, enforceable protections for children and teens online, including on social media platforms. In a statement applauding the Committee for putting politics to the side to make the internet a safer, more age-appropriate place for children, Council for Responsible Social Media Co-chairs Dick Gephardt and Kerry Healey said:
“The Judiciary Committee showed that protecting our children from harms online is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It’s an American issue, one every child, parent, and family has to grapple with,” said Kerry Healey, the former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. “Chair Durbin and Ranking Member Graham deserve praise for listening to these families and taking action that is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle.”
“These proposals are a meaningful step toward greater accountability and oversight of the social media platforms,” said Dick Gephardt, former U.S. Congressman and House Majority Leader. “Congress has not taken action to reign in these powerful technologies since 1996, when the internet was in its infancy. The Judiciary Committee and its leadership signaled that Big Tech companies can no longer be blindly entrusted with the safeguarding of our children; the time has long since come for Congress to step in.”
In a poll released by Issue One and the Council for Responsible Social Media last month, just 7 in 100 Americans described social media’s impact on children as more positive than negative — meaning only 7 percent of Americans think social media is a healthy place for children. 8 in 10 respondents hold social media responsible for key harms including bullying and childhood mental health struggles, with strong bipartisan support for federal legislation that increases transparency, ensures privacy, and protects children.
Despite these staggering statistics, social media remains deeply embedded in our culture and parents continue to feel overwhelmed. It is clear that more needs to be done to make social media safer for our American children and this markup is one important step along the path towards a healthier online ecosystem.
The bills advanced by the Judiciary Committee are designed to bring accountability and transparency to online harms that children face, including child sexual abuse material (CSAM). In the case of the SHIELD Act, protections against the exploitation of explicit, private images extend to adults as well.
- The STOP CSAM Act (S. 1199), a proposal put forward by Chair Durbin, would create new mechanisms for CSAM victims to ask tech companies to remove material on them, strengthen tech platform reporting requirements related to CSAM, and expand both civil and criminal liability related to CSAM content removal and reporting.
- The SHIELD Act (S. 412) would address the online exploitation of explicit, private images. The bill establishes narrow criminal liability for people who distribute others’ private or explicit images online without consent while giving additional tools to law enforcement and federal prosecutors to hold violators accountable. Dr. Mary Anne Franks, a professor of law at the University of Miami and member of the Council for Responsible Social Media, was instrumental in the crafting of this legislation.
- The Project Safe Childhood Act (S. 1170) strengthens the investigation and prosecution of online child exploitation, including improving coordination between federal prosecutors, law enforcement, and leading experts.
The Council for Responsible Social Media, a project of Issue One, launched in October 2022 with a mission to address the harms that social media has for American kids, communities, and national security. Learn more about the Council for Responsible Social Media.
Issue: Kids’ Online Safety