Two Senate Democrats proposed a bill Thursday that would regulate the way online sites display and promote content and ads aimed at children under the age of 16.
The Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, introduced by Sens. Ed Markey (Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), would prohibit operators of platforms aimed at users under 16 from using “auto-play” settings on videos. The measure would also ban those operators encouraging young users by offering them “badges” for playing games, or sending them push alerts.
Another provision would prohibit websites from recommending unboxing videos, or other types of influencer marketing, to children and younger teens. The bill would also prohibit sites from recommending content that involves nicotine, tobacco, or alcohol to minors under 16.
“Today, kids’ faces are increasingly covered in the glow of their screens, and it’s time to face the chilling reality that some websites and apps are built in ways that harm children,” Markey stated Thursday.
Watchdogs including the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood are backing the proposed legislation. Both groups previously asked the Federal Trade Commission to ban influencer marketing aimed at children.
The new bill comes several months after Markey urged YouTube to prohibit child-oriented videos that include product placement.
While YouTube rejected that request, the company did impose new restrictions on on ads surrounding child-oriented videos that appear on YouTube.com -- including bans on food and beverage ads.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) recently proposed a bill that would also prohibit tech companies from using auto-play videos, or awarding “badges” to people based on how much time they spend with websites or apps.
Hawley's proposed “Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act” would apply to all large web platforms, regardless of the age of their users.