By U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) | Feb. 16, 2023 | Washington Post
This Congress is less than two months old, and a good many Capitol watchers have already written it off as a lost cause. With control split between Republicans and Democrats, can anything get done?
Of course it can. Lawmakers can enact transformative change almost overnight — if they have the will to act. And I can think of at least one nonpartisan issue that deserves this kind of urgency: protecting children online. We should start by establishing an age requirement of 16 for social media.
It’s not just algorithms and design decisions putting kids at risk. Child sexual abuse material circulates on mainstream platforms such as Twitter, fueling an underground economy run by human traffickers. With millions of exploitation images circulating across the internet — and more every year — the scale of the problem far outpaces law enforcement’s effort to keep up. While Congress talks, children suffer.
In short, these platforms have become dangerous to young people, pushing them toward nihilistic disengagement or despair. Predators and traffickers, like vultures, hover just out of view.
Congress could blunt these harms by simply passing a law that would keep kids off social media until they’re at least 16 and better positioned to use the technologies safely.
Such a law would need teeth, of course. So let’s give it some. We can require real age verification processes and direct the Federal Trade Commission to carry out periodic audits to ensure compliance. And we can empower parents to bring lawsuits against companies that break the rules.
Such a law wouldn’t replace parents. Rather, it would support them. Most of them don’t want their kids on social media at an early age anyway, and many kids join only because their friends have joined. We can protect kids when they are most vulnerable by keeping them off social media during their formative years.
Read the entire piece in the Washington Post.