Durbin Joins In Introduction Of The Bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in introducing the Kids Online Safety Act, bipartisan legislation to protect children online and hold Big Tech accountable.  Durbin recently unveiled his new efforts to stop the exploitation of children online in a speech on the Senate floor. 

“There’s a grave threat to America’s future lurking online.  Big Tech giants and other online platforms are working every day to capture the minds of our children in order to pad their profits, and no one is protecting our kids from internet profiteers and predators,” said Durbin.  “Our children are not commodities, and we can’t continue to expect parents and victims alone to stand up to Big Tech with few ways to hold tech companies accountable.  That’s why I joined my Judiciary colleagues in introducing the Kids Online Safety Act, bipartisan legislation that will crack down on Big Tech.”

“Our bill provides specific tools to stop Big Tech companies from driving toxic content at kids and to hold them accountable for putting profits over safety,” said Blumenthal.“Record levels of hopelessness and despair—a national teen mental health crisis—have been fueled by black box algorithms featuring eating disorders, bullying, suicidal thoughts, and more. Kids and parents want to take back control over their online lives.  They are demanding safeguards, means to disconnect, and a duty of care for social media.  Our bill has strong bipartisan momentum.  And it has growing support from young people who’ve seen Big Tech’s destruction, parents who’ve lost children, mental health experts, and public interest advocates.  It’s an idea whose time has come.”

“Over the last two years, Senator Blumenthal and I have met with countless parents, psychologists, and pediatricians who are all in agreement that children are suffering at the hands of online platforms,” said Blackburn. “Big Tech has proven to be incapable of appropriately protecting our children, and it’s time for Congress to step in.  The bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act not only requires social media companies to make their platforms safer by default, but it provides parents with the tools they need protect their children online.  I thank Senator Blumenthal for his continued partnership on this critical issue and urge my colleagues to join us in the fight to protect our children online.”

The Kids Online Safety Act provides young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms.  The bill requires social media platforms to put the well-being of children first, ensuring an environment that is safe by default.  The legislation requires independent audits by experts and academic researchers to ensure that social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids. 

The Kids Online Safety Act is supported by various groups including Common Sense Media, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Compass, Eating Disorders Coalition, Fairplay, Mental Health America, and Digital Progress Institute. 

Durbin’s legislation, called the Strengthening Transparency and Obligations to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act of 2023 (STOP CSAM Act), will crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material (CSAM) online.  To combat this horrific crime, Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.

In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Protecting Our Children Online,” which included powerful testimony from those working to increase children’s privacy and safety online.  Durbin’s opening statement from that hearing is available here and witness questions are available here

The Senate Judiciary Committee has noticed its intent to markup three pieces of legislation to help stop the exploitation of children online: the EARN IT Act of 2023, introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act of 2023; and the Cooper Davis Act, introduced by Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

In the Senate, Durbin has introduced legislation to strengthen online privacy protections for children when websites collect their personally identifiable information.  Earlier this year, he introduced the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act, legislation that would give every American an enforceable legal right to demand that internet companies delete all personal information that was collected from or about the person when he or she was a child under age 13.