Hundreds of parent advocates urged Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to pass the Kids Online Safety Act in a letter and full-page Wall Street Journal ad published Thursday.
The call to action builds on pressure from parents at last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Discord, Snap and X, the company formerly known as Twitter.
“We have paid the ultimate price for Congress’s failure to regulate social media. Our children have died from social media harms,” the parents wrote in the letter.
Signatories include families whose children have died by suicide after being cyberbullied, sextorted or served pro-suicide content, according to Fairplay, one of the children’s advocacy groups that helped organize the letter.
“Platforms will never make meaningful changes unless Congress forces them to. The urgency of this matter cannot be overstated. If the status quo continues, more children will die from preventable causes and from social media platforms’ greed,” they wrote in the letter.
The parents asked Schumer to “leverage your considerable influence and leadership” and prioritize the issue by bringing the Kids Online Safety Act to a vote in the Senate.
The bipartisan bill led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) would require social media companies to limit access to or allow minors to opt out of certain features, like automatic video playing and algorithmic recommendations.
It would also legally obligate tech platforms to prevent the promotion of content about certain topics, such as suicide, eating disorders and self-harm.
An updated version of the bill advanced out of the Senate Commerce Committee in July with broad bipartisan support, and nearly half of the Senate has signed on as a sponsor, but the bill has yet to be called for a floor vote. It also advanced last session without being called for a vote.
The version of the bill that advanced in July narrowed the definition of duty of care to quell concerns raised by some human rights groups about how it may be interpreted to limit information for teens about sexuality, gender identity and reproductive health care.
Some groups, though, are still voicing concerns about unintended consequences that may result.
Blumenthal and Blackburn said at a press conference last week ahead of the hearing they are working with stakeholders on some provisions of the bill, but did not expand on potential changes.
After last week’s hearing, a spokesperson for Schumer said in a statement that children’s online safety is a “priority” for the leader.
“While we work to pass the supplemental and keep the government funded in the coming weeks, Leader Schumer will continue to work with the sponsors of the online safety bills to ensure the necessary support,” the spokesperson said at the time.
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