Senators Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., appear at a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing on September 30, 2021. They jointly introduced a bill Wednesday addressing children's safety on the Internet. File Photo by Tom Brenner/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn introduced a bill on Wednesday to enhance the safety of children online, making big tech companies more responsible for how their tools affect adolescents.
The Kids Online Safety Act comes after whistleblowers told lawmakers about the negative impact of social media on young people.
Blumenthal, D-Conn, chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee, and ranking member Blackburn, R-Tenn., said that the tech industry has repeatedly failed to police itself when it comes to the harmful content children are exposed to online.
The act would require social media platforms to provide minors with options to protect their information and disable addictive product features and gives parents new controls to help support their children and identify harmful behaviors.
It would also create a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harm to minors and require them to conduct an annual independent audit that assesses the risks to minors.
"This measure makes kids' safety an Internet priority," Blumenthal said in a statement. "Big Tech has brazenly failed children and betrayed its trust, putting profits above safety.
"The Kids Online Safety Act would finally give kids and their parents the tools and safeguards they need to protect against toxic content -- and hold Big Tech accountable for deeply dangerous algorithms."
Blackburn said the timing was right for the legislation with the coronavirus pandemic making young people more reliant than ever on social media technology.
"In hearings over the last year, Senator Blumenthal and I have heard countless stories of physical and emotional damage affecting young users, and Big Tech's unwillingness to change," Blackburn said.
"The Kids Online Safety Act will address those harms by setting necessary safety guide rails for online platforms to follow that will require transparency and give parents more peace of mind."