Biden demands Congress protect kids online in State of the Union address

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Congress in his first State of the Union address to pass new rules to improve the safety of children on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It is Biden’s first time asking for these rules, and the White House plans to file specific funding requests to study and improve children’s online safety.

Specifically, Biden called on Congress to enact stricter privacy rules for children, ban targeted advertising to children and pressure social media companies to design their products from scratch with children’s safety in mind. In a fact sheet provided by the White House earlier on Tuesday, the administration is also expected to target social media algorithms that discriminately target children, particularly minorities.

“It’s time to strengthen privacy protections”

“It is time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children and demand that tech companies stop collecting personal data about our children,” Biden said Tuesday evening.

The request comes just months after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before several congressional committees accusing Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, of turning a blind eye to the safety of young users. Haugen attended Tuesday’s State of the Union address as a special guest of First Lady Jill Biden.

After Haugen’s testimony, Republicans and Democrats agreed on the need to roll out stricter privacy rules for children. However, it is still unclear what those rules will look like. Last October, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) back their KIDS Act, which would create new limits for developers designing apps for kids. It would also ban all targeted advertising to children, something Biden called for in Tuesday night’s speech.

“As Frances Haugen, who is here with us tonight, has shown, we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they are conducting on our children for profit,” Biden said.

Biden also announced that he would demand $5 million in its 2023 budget to examine how social media harms the mental health of its users, “as well as the clinical and societal interventions” the administration could employ to address these concerns. Biden said the Department of Health and Human Services will also launch a “national center of excellence on social media and mental illness” in the coming year. The new program would develop and disseminate new guidelines “on the full impact of adolescents’ social media use”.

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