'Fairplay' to launch campaign for children's online protection

'Fairplay' to launch campaign for children's online protection
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The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is launching a new campaign to advocate for children’s online protection under a rebrand with the name Fairplay, the organization announced Wednesday. 

The watchdog, founded in 2000, said it is changing its name to Fairplay to better reflect the shifting nature of its work with the rise of social media and tech platforms. 

“In the more than 20 years we have advocated for children, childhood has been transformed by smartphones, tablets, and an overwhelming array of apps and games designed to hook kids, monopolize their attention, and mine their personal information for profit,” Angela Campbell, professor emeritus of Georgetown Law and chair of the Fairplay board of directors, said in the announcement. 

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“While our advocacy has evolved to match the digital techniques used by corporate marketers, our name hasn’t. As Fairplay, we will demand a new set of rules to protect children from the unfair and harmful manipulations of Big Tech,” Campbell added. 

Fairplay is preparing to launch a “major campaign” for new regulations to protect children online, including pushing for an age-appropriate U.S. design code similar to a code of practice in the U.K., according to the announcement. 

Fairplay released a video Wednesday that compares the addictive nature of social media to cigarettes. The video begins with a girl on a couch reaching for a cigarette, lighting it up, and then flashing to her with her face glued to a phone screen. 

“We allowed corporations to treat our children like just another demographic — with money to burn and needs to be exploited. It’s time to make a stand,” the narrator of the video says. 

Fairplay will push for regulations similar to the U.K.’s Age Appropriate Design Code. The U.K. code sets standards and explains how data protection regulation applies in the context of children using digital services. 

Fairplay will advocate for regulations against “manipulative platform design that puts children at risk” and to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). 

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Fairplay is organizing a coalition of advocates with concerns about young people’s online experiences including sexual exploitation, mental health challenges, exposure to misinformation, and excessive screen time, as part of its push to demand a U.S design code through new legislation and Federal Trade Commission rulemakings. 

Eight groups‚ including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Center for Humane Technology and Common Sense, will make up a steering committee to back Fairplay’s campaign for the design code. 

Other advocacy groups are also supporting the effort, according to a spokesperson for Fairplay.

“While we will continue to stand up to any corporation whose marketing practices interfere with children’s healthy development, it’s time to demand more systemic solutions,” Fairplay’s Executive Director Josh Golin said in the announcement. 

“With a growing bipartisan consensus that the internet’s business model of intrusive data collection and extended engagement is harmful to children, we have a real opportunity to create the online environment young people deserve,” he added. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pressed social media companies over their policies as they relate to children. 

Republicans and Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned the CEOs of Facebook and YouTube’s parent company, Google, on policies about children’s advertising during a hearing earlier this year.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Olympics medals made of mashed up smartphones Lawmakers urge Biden to make 'bold decisions' in nuclear review OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps | Manchin to back controversial public lands nominee | White House details environmental justice plan MORE (D-Mass.), who has been urging for updates to COPPA, said he looks forward to working with Fairplay. 

"I’ve been working with these experts and advocates for years to enact the strong safeguards young people require to safely navigate today’s digital world. The need to protect this uniquely vulnerable population online is more urgent than ever and I look forward to working with Fairplay in this new chapter for the organization," Markey said in a statement.