Dem senator to introduce bill combating 'commercialization' of children's online lives

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey challenges Democratic Senate campaign opponents to climate change debate Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey Markey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge MORE (D-Mass.) in remarks on Thursday announced that he is planning to introduce legislation combating the "commercialization" of children's online lives.

The bill, called the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, would ask online platforms to tweak their algorithms to ensure harmful content does not end up in front of children.  

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It would also limit the amount and types of advertisements online platforms are allowed to target toward children and prohibit content that blurs the lines between content and advertisement, such as hourlong videos that promote certain toys to children, as well as age-inappropriate advertising.

"Platforms like YouTube have an ethical obligation to keep violent and dangerous content away from children," Markey said at an event hosted by Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that deals with children's safety online. 

"Unfortunately it is clear that without enforceable rules, platforms will continue to build their websites in ways to drive up clicks and views and promote access to harmful content at the expense of children's best interest," he said. 

Markey told The Hill that he is currently looking for a Republican to co-sponsor the bill before he introduces it in the coming weeks.

The KIDS Act would allow the Federal Trade Commission to levy fines and sanction online platforms that do not follow the rules laid out by the bill, according to materials provided by Common Sense Media.

The legislation would address "manipulative design" on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that seek to keep children online longer, such as YouTube's auto-play and push notifications from children's gaming apps, Markey said.

"It is time to face the chilling reality that some websites and apps today are built in ways that harm children," Markey said. "The very structure and underlying code of the platforms that children use on a near-constant basis today inherently poses risk to kids’ well-being." 

The bill would ask online platforms to properly label "educational and informational" content for children, and create a loan program incentivizing the creation of healthy online media geared toward children. 

Markey compared online marketing to tobacco companies that sought to hook consumers onto their product before they turned 18.

"It’s clear Congress should put rules on the books so kids aren’t thrust into a culture of consumerism before they are equipped to navigate it," Markey said.

Markey has introduced two other children's privacy bills in the 116th Congress — one with Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyLawmakers say Zuckerberg has agreed to 'cooperate' with antitrust probe Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security MORE (R-Mo.), which would update the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and the other with Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE (R-Mo.), which would fund longitudinal research on children's online habits.