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What’s the holdup over legislation to bolster child safety online? What concerns do tech giants have about potential legislation?

Despite growing outrage over tech giants’ failure to address child exploitation on social media platforms, federal legislation to tackle the issue has stalled in the US Senate for years. The delay has been caused by tech lobbyists, competing legislative priorities, and the challenge of balancing parental concerns with children’s rights.

Below we’ll dive into what the opponents and advocates of legislation for online safety for kids say.

Fighting Child Victimization Online

In a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, lawmakers blasted Big Tech chief executives for their platforms’ failure to shield children from online sexual predators. Despite universal outrage, however, legislative action to bolster online safety for kids remains stalemated. 


In recent years, social media giants have faced growing criticism over their failure to address high levels of harmful online content that’s fueled a surge in child trafficking and sexual exploitation. The platforms have been accused of fostering environments where children are groomed, often by criminal enterprises, then sold for sex and controlled through their social media accounts.

Families of victims allege that social media platforms’ negligence has resulted in their children resorting to drug use and suicide, due to the relentless abuse they face online

Federal Inaction 

At present, the only federal legislation enacted to address internet-based child victimization is 2018’s Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which aimed to curb sex trafficking by holding websites accountable for knowingly hosting or facilitating sex trafficking content. However, critics argue that the act infringes on internet freedom and is ineffective.

Since SESTA’s passage, numerous federal legislative efforts to tackle online child exploitation have stalled in the Senate. Five of these bills originated in the Judiciary Committee to:

  • Criminalize the distribution of nonconsensual, intimate photos without individuals’ permission. 
  • Encourage collaboration among law enforcement in investigations of crimes against children. 
  • Give victims new ways to report child sexual abuse material to internet companies. 
  • Broaden the range of potential online crimes that platforms are required to report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Another bill, the Commerce Committee’s Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) sought to:

  • Require social media networks, video game sites, and messaging apps to implement “reasonable measures” to protect minors from harm, such as online bullying, harassment, sexual exploitation, and self-harm. 
  • Provide tools for parents to monitor their children’s online behavior

Legislation Obstacles

Experts say that a number of factors have made it difficult to pass federal online child safety legislation:

  • Tech lobbyists have actively worked to kill the bills.
  • Lawmakers’ attention has been diverted to other, competing priorities.
  • The question of where to draw the line between protecting kids and restricting their rights remains unresolved.

Legislation Advocates

Proponents of child internet safety legislation say it’s high time for lawmakers to pass the Kids Online Safety Act, arguing that:

Legislation Opponents

Critics of the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), including some tech giants and digital rights groups, have voiced concerns about potential free speech infringement and negative impacts on legitimate content that could result from overly broad restrictions

Many chief executives at the Judiciary Committee’s February hearing highlighted their child safety protocols—including measures to verify users’ ages, parental consent tools, and systems for marking questionable content—and pledged to work with legislators, parents, and law enforcement to safeguard minors.

Looking Ahead 

Some are skeptical about the passage of KOSA legislation, saying it will need to undergo the approval process from scratch and secure congressional leaders’ support.

However, others are more optimistic, saying that KOSA has enough support in the Senate to potentially advance in the coming months. The real hurdle the bill faces, they argue, would be securing House approval while wrangling with opposition from tech lobbying groups.

Legislation for Online Safety for Kids Faces Obstacles

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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