President Joe Biden will address the nation in the second State of the Union address of his term on Tuesday night. By a Edition the White House expects the president to weigh in on children’s online safety issues and data privacy.
The briefing states that Biden will call on bipartisan lawmakers to ban targeted advertising to youth and to protect the privacy, health and safety of children. The president will also voice his support for imposing stricter transparency requirements on technology companies that collect user data.
These points are almost identical to Biden’s comments last year. During the 2022 speech, Biden highlighted the impact of social media on the mental health of children and teens. Biden specifically nodded to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s massive document leaks, which led to a series of five Senate hearings on children’s online safety. First LadyDr. Jill Biden even Haugen invited to last year’s event as a special guest, signaling the president’s attention to her advocacy.
As a result of those hearings, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) last year, which appears to meet Biden’s demands. Of all the potential online safety legislation, KOSA seems most likely to steam.
The bill requires social media companies to provide users under 16 with the ability to protect their information, disable addictive product features, and opt out of algorithmic recommendations; giving parents more control over their child’s use of social media; require social media platforms to carry out an independent audit annually to assess their risk to minors; and allow academics and public-interest organizations to use company data to inform their research on children’s internet safety.
Before the new year, Blumenthal and Blackburn made one collective pressure to pass KOSA as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending accountbut they failed.
In November, more than 90 organizations — including the ACLU, SMOOTH and the Electronic Borders Foundation (EFF) — logged in an open letter outlining the unintended negative consequences of this legislation. Specifically, the letter states that KOSA may require any service that may allow minors to use age and identity verification technology.
“Age verification may require users to provide platforms with personally identifiable information, such as date of birth and government-issued identification documents, which could threaten user privacy, including through the risk of data breaches,” the letter reads. “Instead of age-restricting privacy settings and security tools to apply only to minors, Congress should focus on ensuring that all users, regardless of age, benefit from strong privacy protections through comprehensive privacy laws.”
The technology policies that enforce online age verification have already created a culture of surveillance. In Louisiana, Pornhub now complies with state law by requiring visitors to verify their age through a state-owned identity verification app.
According to the EFF, KOSA could require platforms such as Apple’s iMessage, Signal, web browsers, emails, VPNs and social platforms to collect more user data, which is the exact opposite of what the legislation purports to do.
“Perhaps even worse, the bill would allow individual attorneys general to decide what topics pose a risk to a minor’s physical and mental health, and allow them to force online services to remove that material everywhere by default and block access to that material. the EFF wrote in an online petition. “This isn’t security – it’s censorship.”
The November open letter specifically outlines ways KOSA can be used to improve access to sex education and sexuality education for LGBTQ+ youth. resources for mental health. Following an amendment to the bill, the ACLU, EFF, and five other groups published another letter stating that even with a new language, KOSA could still “pose a serious threat to the lives and rights of LGBTQ youth”. The letter also raised concerns about the impact on end-to-end encryption, among other privacy technologies.
Biden’s calls for change in his State of the Union address are only as strong as the other branches of government allow. But later this month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit against Google that could affect Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which would have huge implications for how people use the Internet.