“The Big Tech companies, whether it’s Facebook or Snapchat or any of them, see the revenue in the eyeballs of kids,” said Blumenthal.
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, joined a virtual rally with parent and youth advocates calling on Congress to pass kids online safety and privacy legislation, including Blumenthal’s bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act. During the rally, hosted by Fairplay, Common Sense, Center for Digital Democracy, Public Citizen, and the Eating Disorders Coalition and also joined by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Blumenthal discussed the importance of his legislation which would provide kids and parents with tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against threats to children’s health and well-being online. The Kids Online Safety Act was unanimously passed by the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year and awaits a Senate Floor vote.
“I’ve advocated this cause when I was attorney general of Connecticut and the reason is very simply stories like Kristin’s that have broken my heart and been so compelling to me on a human level,” Blumenthal said while speaking with Kristin Bride, the mother of Carson Bride who died of suicide at 16-years-old after experiencing cyberbullying on Snapchat. “I’ve also heard from other parents and many young people who want to take back control over their online lives. They feel that they’ve lost control, that there is something about the way these tech platforms drive content to them that is purposeful and strategic to addict them and take advantage of their vulnerability.”
“That’s what they purposefully do as we saw from the documents that Frances Haugen gave to us,” Blumenthal continued. “And it was so revealing to America to see in black and white how the Big Tech companies, whether it’s Facebook or Snapchat or any of them, see the revenue in the eyeballs of kids who are in effect attracted by this addictive quality and are harmed by it, whether it’s eating disorders or bullying or even potential drug issues and others.”
“Until social media companies are held accountable for their harmful products, they will always put profit over people,” said Kristin Bride. “And kids like Carson and so many others are just collateral damage.”
Specifically, the Kids Online Safety Act creates a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors. The legislation gives parents new controls to help support their children and identify harmful behaviors, requires platforms provide minors with options to protect their information, disable addictive product features, and opt out of algorithmic recommendations, and provides academic and public interest organizations with access to critical datasets from platforms to foster research regarding harms to the safety and well-being of minors.
“There is no controversy about the need for this bill. The families like Kristin’s who have suffered this harm have been so convincing that the Commerce Committee passed this bill unanimously. Not a single vote against it, Republican or Democrat,” said Blumenthal. “Our obstacles here are the Big Tech lobbyists…They want regulation that in effect gives them a pass or a tap on the wrist so that they can regard it as the cost of doing business and just continue doing business as usual.”
“As powerful as they are, as wealthy as they are, we’ve got to stand up to them,” Blumenthal concluded.
Video of the rally is available here.