"Amid uncertainty over other Big Tech legislation, legislators should agree on reforms that make the Internet safer for minors," writes Clare Morell and Adam Candeub.
Will 2022 be a “do or die” moment for Congress to pass Big Tech legislation before the midterm elections? The prospects for Congress’s doing anything in the next few years on Big Tech look dim. Divisions within and between the parties on such matters as antitrust and Section 230 seem at the moment to be prevailing over whatever common ground is forming in those areas. With congressional action looking highly unlikely in either area, will Congress pass any legislation at all to counter Big Tech and its harms this coming year?
One cause for optimism is the growing possibility of amending the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In light of growing bipartisan agreement on how social-media platforms are harming our children, a legislative path forward in 2022 would be for Congress to amend this act.
COPPA, passed in 1998, currently purports to regulate the Internet platforms’ power to obtain, without parental permission, personal information about our children. But as written, it does little to protect children’s privacy. The statute in fact gives the Big Tech platforms carte blanche to collect personal information about children. With the power to collect limitless data on children, the platforms have greater ability to tailor content to children’s interest and preferences, further addicting them to screens. COPPA has failed utterly to empower parents to break this cycle. Giving parents control over their children’s online habits should be a central goal of technology policy, particularly because there is ever-increasing acknowledgement by both parties of the harms of Big Tech against our children.