Microsoft announced that it is endorsing bipartisan legislation intended to hold Big Tech companies accountable for ensuring that teenagers and children are safe online.
Microsoft Vice Chairman and President Brad Smith released a statement on Tuesday endorsing the Kids Online Safety Act, a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-IL) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). KOSA would require social media companies to implement controls for users, including options for limiting screen time, restricting addictive features, and limiting access to user profiles. The legislation was approved by the Commerce Committee in July and is awaiting a floor vote. Microsoft is the second major technology company to speak out in support of KOSA.
“Technology can be a powerful tool for learning, creativity, communication, and social good, but can equally pose significant challenges and risks for young users,” Smith tweeted. “We must protect youth safety and privacy online and ensure that technology – including emerging technologies such as AI – serves as a positive force for the next generation. [KOSA] provides a reasonable, impactful approach to address this issue. It is a tailored, thoughtful measure that can support young people to engage safely online. Microsoft supports this legislation, encourages its passage, and applauds Senators [Blumenthal] and [Blackburn] for their leadership.”
The CEOs of Meta, X, TikTok, Snap, and Discord are scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they will have to address the effects that their apps have had on what the committee has termed the “Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”
Blumenthal told reporters on Tuesday that he intends to ask each CEO at the hearing if they are willing to endorse KOSA, a bill that has over 200 groups behind it, as well as nearly half of Congress co-sponsoring it.
Snap has already stated that it supports the legislation. The other companies have either not commented or expressed opposition to the legislation.
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The other Big Tech companies have updated their policies to provide additional protections to teenagers. Meta announced in the weeks before the hearing that it was increasing privacy for teenage users, barring strangers from sending direct messages to minors, and sharing internal data with researchers. X announced on Sunday it is hiring a new “Trust and Safety” team to handle content moderation on the platform and that X CEO Linda Yaccarino intends to meet with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle before the hearing.
Big Tech’s critics were unswayed by the changes, calling them distractions from the need for appropriate legislation.