Legislation aims to require corporate social media to do more to protect Kentucky minors from predators

Republished from WEKU.

State lawmakers are considering ways to require social media companies and digital service providers to better protect minors from online predators. The legislation received unanimous committee approval Wednesday. GOP Bill Sponsor Stephanie Dietz said it establishes parameters for social media companies, how they must regulate the internal algorithms to protect Kentucky children and their private information.

“Is not a government initiative that requires age verification or parental consent to access constitutionally protected speech. Instead, it gives parents and caregivers additional tools to keep their children safe online including the ability to temporarily or permanently deactivate the child’s account,” said Dietz.

The committee heard from Jen, who asked her last name be protected. She spoke of how a grown man entered her teenager’s friend group. The mother of five said the man acted as a groomer, which eventually led to suicidal thoughts by her son and hospitalization. Jen said better notification provides a better opportunity to protect children.

Dietz said nearly all laws in a dozen other states are in litigation. Louisville Democratic Representative Nima Kulkarni said she understands this is a first step.

“Whatever outcomes these nationwide litigation outcomes may occur in the future, that we are able to come back and visit this issue to strengthen the requirements and the enforcement of some of this from these companies and not just leave it up to them,” said Kulkarni.

There was committee discussion about the challenges surrounding age verification for certain online activities. Dietz said conversations were held with representatives of Meta, Google, gaming and entertainment groups.

She added the legislation lays out social media companies must limit use and collection of identifying information, not share or sell the user’s information, may not collect the user’s precise location date. Louisville Democratic Representative Daniel Grossberg voted yes in committee, saying the bill is not perfect, it’s new territory, and he asked the public to be patient as lawmakers address the issue.

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Originally published by WEKU.

Republished with permission.