US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced a bill today that would put the onus on social media companies to add online safeguards for children. The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) was first introduced last February (sponsored by the same pair) but never made it to the Senate floor after backlash from advocacy groups. The revamped legislation "provides specific tools to stop Big Tech companies from driving toxic content at kids and to hold them accountable for putting profits over safety," said Blumenthal. It follows a separate bill introduced last month with a similar aim. Like the original KOSA, the updated bill would require annual independent audits by "experts and academic researchers" to force regulation-averse social media companies to address the online dangers posed to children.
U.S. lawmakers are coming for the free and open internet in the name of "child safety," and now they're even saying the quiet part out loud. In recent years, numerous bills have cropped up to chip away at internet privacy and security. To name a few: FOSTA-SESTA, passed in 2018, which weakened Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act so that websites and social platforms were liable for "sexual solicitation" posts; the EARN IT Act, introduced in 2020 and reintroduced in 2022, which would further weaken Section 230; age-verification bills, passed in Louisiana and elsewhere, which require porn site visitors to show ID; and the Kids Online Safety Act, also known as KOSA, which was introduced in 2022 and reintroduced this year. At a glance, these bills seem positive. We want everyone, especially children, to be protected and safe online; that's why KOSA has bipartisan support, including an endorsement from President Joe Biden.
Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday. Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday. Facebook is facing a historic crisis. Revelations brought to light from whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, has led to what may be the most threatening scandal in the company's history. The pressure was turned up on Tuesday, when Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee.
WASHINGTON – "Facebook and Big Tech are facing a Big Tobacco moment," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said this past week when a whistleblower testified about how the social media company's products harmed teenagers. "I think that that's an appropriate analogy," Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, added later. The whistleblower's testimony, and the thousands of internal documents she shared with lawmakers, generated unusual bipartisan bonhomie in a divided Washington. Senators said it was time for Congress to coalesce around new regulations to rein in the company and perhaps the technology industry as a whole. But if what faces Big Tech is anything like what happened to Big Tobacco -- a reckoning over the industry's harms to society, and children in particular -- what lies ahead is likely to be a yearslong, complicated path toward new rules and regulations, with no guaranteed result.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman made an appeal to members of Congress under oath: Regulate artificial intelligence. Altman, whose company is on the extreme forefront of generative A.I. technology with its ChatGPT tool, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time in a Tuesday hearing. And while he said he is ultimately optimistic that innovation will benefit people on a grand scale, Altman echoed his previous assertion that lawmakers should create parameters for AI creators to avoid causing "significant harm to the world." "We think it can be a printing press moment," Altman said. "We have to work together to make it so."