Today, Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media endorsed the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and called on members of the Senate Commerce Committee to adopt responsible social media safeguards by advancing this important piece of legislation.
“We are in the midst of a national epidemic of depression, anxiety, and loneliness among children and teens,” said Kerry Healey, the former Republican lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and co-chair of the Council. “Social media companies have designed their products to maximize profit without regard to the impact — and they do so by exploiting our children’s anxieties and keeping their attention longer. KOSA directly addresses the harmful social media business model by placing the health and wellbeing of our children over advertising revenue. Parents cannot be expected to go it alone against Big Tech. They need Congress to step in and help.”
The Council, which launched last year, is among the most prominent groups of its kind that’s ever come together to speak in one voice about the need for greater accountability from social media platforms. A recent national poll commissioned by Issue One and the Council found overwhelming bipartisan support for social media safeguards. 8 in 10 Americans hold social media responsible for bullying, childhood mental health struggles, and the spreading of false information, and just 7 in 100 see social media’s impact on children as more positive than negative. That’s a 7% approval rating for Big Tech’s protection of children.
“For too long, Congress has failed to help parents protect their families from the addictive products that social media companies have marketed to our children. As a mother, I know all too well how this inaction has had devastating consequences on children and families,” said Kristin Bride, a social media reform advocate. “I tried everything I could to ensure that my son, Carson, was using social media safely and responsibly. But he took his own life at the age of 16 after being subjected to harassment and humiliating messages from anonymous bullies on social media. Sadly, there are countless other families like mine who have suffered great loss. KOSA will finally give parents much-needed support by bringing greater accountability to the social media platforms. It is vital that our elected leaders act now.”
Added Alix Fraser, director of the Council for Responsible Social Media: “KOSA is the strongest bill we’ve seen yet at the federal level to protect children online. It does so by focusing on design, rather than content. It gives parents a helping hand to keep their children safe, rather than putting the burden solely on them. And it will be particularly impactful for the communities so often affected by Big Tech’s harmful products — young girls, children of color, and LGBTQ communities. We are thrilled that the Senate Commerce Committee will be considering this bill, and urge the members to move KOSA forward for a vote by the whole Senate.”
The Kids Online Safety Act was reintroduced in May by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). The bill currently has 41 co-sponsors in the Senate across both parties, making it one of the strongest bipartisan proposals before Congress right now.
KOSA has also been endorsed by hundreds of advocacy and technology groups, including Council members and partners like Common Sense Media, Fairplay, Design It For Us, Accountable Tech, Eating Disorders Coalition, American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
KOSA disables addictive product features, gives children, teens, and families the ability to opt out of algorithmic recommendations, and enables the strongest settings by default. The bill also gives policymakers and the American public more visibility into how these platforms work by requiring annual, independent auditing and giving researchers access to critical datasets about usage by and harms to kids.
The Senate Commerce Committee is set to mark up KOSA at an executive session on Thursday, July 27 at 10am ET.