WASHINGTON D.C. — More than 200 advocacy groups called on Congress Wednesday to protect minors from the harmful effects of social media by passing the Kids Online Safety Act.
Among the 200 organizations are the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association.
“Kids are being exposed to all kinds of harmful content and predators. Families are crying out for help to create a safer internet,” said David Monahan with Fairplay, an advocacy group.
Colorado sues social media giant, mental health experts hope for accountability
In a letter to congressional leadership, the groups noted concerns about youth mental health, privacy, suicide, eating disorders and child sexual abuse being exacerbated by social media.
“All of these groups are standing up today to say to our leaders in Congress it's past time. We need guardrails in place. We need to create safer online experiences for young people. We cannot go another day where kids are at so much risk being online,” Monahan said.
If passed, the Kids Online Safety Act would force social media companies to disable addictive product features and opt out of recommendations produced by algorithms for users who are minors. The bill has bipartisan support — including from Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper — but has not been called for a vote on the Senate floor.
The pressure comes just one day after a Facebook whistleblower testified before a Senate subcommittee that executives ignored warnings about negative experiences young users had on their platforms. Former Facebook engineer Arturo Bejar told senators Tuday a survey conducted by his team found 22% of young users were the target of bullying and 24% received unwanted sexual advances.
“One, Meta knows the harm that kids experience on their platform, and the executives know that their measures fail to address it. Two, there are actionable steps that Meta could take to address the problem. And three, they are deciding time and time again to not tackle these issues,” Bejar testified.
Bejar said his own 14-year-old daughter filed complaints with Meta about unwanted sexual advances she received on Instagram, but the company did nothing.
Denver Public Schools joins lawsuit against social media giants
Meta has rolled out new parental controls and parental time management tools in response to criticism.
The Kids Online Safety Act faces opposition. LGBTQ groups are concerned it will block minors from information about the LGBTQ community and health care.
The parents of more than 100 transgender children signed a letter opposing the bill, saying it would censor their children.