Snapchat to Support Kids Online Safety Act

Snapchat became the first technology company to support the bill aimed at protecting minors from harmful content online.

By supporting the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), the owner of a popular messaging platform Snapchat breaks ranks with its trade group NetChoice, Politico reports.

The company's CEO, Evan Spiegel, will testify in a hearing on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with heads of other technological companies Meta, Discord, TikTok, and X, formerly Twitter. None of these platforms have taken public positions on KOSA.

KOSA would require online platforms to take measures to prevent recommending minors harmful content, such as sexual exploitation and online bullying. Moreover, it would ban platforms from advertising age-restricted products or services like tobacco and gambling.

"We've known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech. They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids. Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs. Parents and kids demand action," senators Dick Durbin and U.S. Lindsey Graham said in a statement.

Suicide-romanticizing content

Social networks have faced increasing criticism and legal actions for exposing minors to harmful content.

A 2023 report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that TikTok pushes content promoting eating disorders and self-harm to teens every 39 seconds.

Another experiment led by Amnesty International revealed that children and young people who watch mental health-related content on TikTok's "For You" section are exposed to videos that romanticize and encourage depressive thinking, self-harm, and suicide.

Dozens of states sued Meta in October for violating federal children's online privacy and consumer protection laws by making its products addictive and lying about their harmful effects on children's mental health.

Snap also faces a lawsuit over its disappearing message feature that allegedly allowed young people to buy fentanyl, leading to overdose deaths.

Several LGBTQ+ organizations wrote a letter to senators in 2022 warning that KOSA may have unintended damaging consequences for young people, such as curtailed access to sex education or resources for LGBTQ+ youth.

As KOSA will increase the parental supervision of minors' use of online platforms, this could prevent teenagers experiencing domestic violence from reaching out for help, the groups warned.

Social networks may have detrimental effects on children's mental health and well-being, but it is yet to be seen if KOSA can protect minors from harmful content without negative impacts on marginalized groups.

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