Putting children under surveillance and limiting their access to information doesn’t make them safer—in fact, research suggests just the opposite. Unfortunately those tactics are the ones endorsed by the Kids Online Safety Act of 2022 (KOSA), introduced by Sens. Blumenthal and Blackburn. The bill deserves credit for attempting to improve online data privacy for young people, and for attempting to update 1998’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). But its plan to require surveillance and censorship of anyone under sixteen would greatly endanger the rights, and safety, of young people online.
KOSA would require the following:
- A new legal duty for platforms to prevent certain harms: KOSA outlines a wide collection of content that platforms can be sued for if young people encounter it, including “promotion of self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other matters that pose a risk to physical and mental health of a minor.”
- Compel platforms to provide data to researchers
- An elaborate age-verification system, likely run by a third-party provider
- Parental controls, turned on and set to their highest settings, to block or filter a wide array of content
There are numerous concerns with this plan. The parental controls would in effect require a vast number of online platforms to create systems for parents to spy on—and control—the conversations young people are able to have online, and require those systems be turned on by default. It would also likely result in further tracking of all users.