Stout said that regulation alone won’t solve the challenges surrounding privacy online.
“Technology companies must take responsibility and actively protect the communities they serve,” she said.
TikTok highlighted specific actions it’s taken to protect children’s safety in recent years, including disabling the direct messaging feature for users under age 16. The company also disabled all users from sending certain videos, photos and website links, and only videos that have been approved through content moderation are allowed.
TikTok has also removed 11 million suspected underage accounts from April to June 2021. But the company acknowledged the challenges it faces.
“We do know trust must be earned, and we’re seeking to earn trust through a higher level of action, transparency and accountability, as well as the humility to learn and improve” Beckerman said.
YouTube’s Miller told the panel that YouTube Kids, created in 2015, provides parents with tools to control and customize the app for children. Miller said that kids under 13 who aren’t in a parental “supervised experience” are not allowed on YouTube. They don’t allow personalized advertisements on YouTube Kids or the “supervise experience.”
Miller said the company has removed nearly 1.8 million videos from April to June 2021 for violations of the company’s child safety policies.
Efforts to Legislate
Blumenthal and Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey have sponsored legislation to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which was enacted in 1998, years before the launch of the social media companies. The law currently restricts collection of personal information of children under age 13. The legislation would expand the protections to age 16. The bill has bipartisan support from Republican Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.
Blumenthal also backed legislation to prohibit certain manipulative marketing practices geared toward online users under the age of 16, including banning auto-play features and algorithms that amplify violent and dangerous content. That bill has no Republican cosponsors to date.
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