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Kids Online Safety Act workshopped ahead of vote

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Jul 25, 2023
Illustration of hands drawing red lines over the US Capitol. 

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Senators are working through remaining sticking points with the Kids Online Safety Act ahead of a markup scheduled this Thursday, a source familiar told Axios.

What's happening: Negotiations among lawmakers and with the Federal Trade Commission are ongoing and changes to the bill are not set in stone.

  • Streaming services: In a new draft of the bill, video streaming services are still considered a covered platform. But language was added to clarify that content (think news, sports or entertainment) "preselected" by a provider like Netflix or Disney+ is "deemed to be in compliance" with the bill.
  • Streaming services offering content that is predominantly user generated are not automatically in compliance.
  • The language is meant to address concerns that the bill captures an overly broad set of online content.
  • FTC enforcement: The draft removes language that says the FTC has the power to enforce "any regulation promulgated under" KOSA, a provision seen as a way of indefinitely giving the agency power to take action under the bill.

Meanwhile, Sen. Brian Schatz is trying to shore up support to include language from his Protecting Kids on Social Media Act.

  • Schatz's amendment would prohibit social media platforms that know a user is under the age of 17 from using the personal information of that user in a personalized recommendation system.
  • It further states that an individual’s self-attestation of age is insufficient alone to establish that a social media platform does not know that an individual is under the age of 17.

Why it matters: Some advocacy groups are steadfast in getting online protections for kids passed this Congress after lawmakers failed to do so last year despite bipartisan support and buy-in from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

  • Passage will require getting the language exactly right to satisfy enough senators, though hurdles for KOSA remain in the House where lawmakers would rather pass a comprehensive privacy bill that protects all Americans.
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