Coalition Pushes for Online Child Safety Bill in New York – Government Technology

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Coalition Pushes for Online Child Safety Bill in New York

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The state attorney general, Democratic lawmakers, parents and a child safety advocate rallied in Albany on Wednesday for legislation they say will take significant steps to protect children on the Internet.

New York State Assembly Chamber

(TNS) — Attorney General Letitia A. James, Democratic lawmakers, parents and Mary C. Rodee, a child safety advocate from Canton who lost her child to online victimization, rallied in Albany on Wednesday for a slate of legislation they say will take significant steps to protect children on the internet.

The group traveled to the Capitol to call for the passage of two bills before the state legislature: the Safe for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act.

Both bills would address how social media companies treat children. The Child Data Protection Act, which has bipartisan support but no companion bill in the Assembly, would prohibit web services from collecting, using, sharing or processing personal information for users younger than 18 without informed consent, and prevents the sale of any data regarding minor users without a written agreement.

It also allows the state attorney general to sue when platforms violate the law .

The Safe For Kids Act, which has only Democratic support but has supporters in both chambers of the legislature, would prohibit social media companies from providing algorithmically generated feeds meant to maintain engagement to users younger than 18 without parental consent, and requires those companies provide a non-algorithmically crafted feed when consent is not provided.

It would also require companies put time locks on their products from midnight to 6 a.m., and overall app timers on their products. The bill also permits the state AG and private parties to sue to obtain relief and damages when companies violate the law.

“Social media is fueling a national youth mental health crisis and we must do more to protect our children and young adults,” James said. “And that is why we are here today. We have a responsibility to respond to crisis in the state of New York and we want our children protected online. Not monetized, not commoditized and not at the expense of their mental health.”

James said the Child Data Protection Act and Safe For Kids Act are both well-crafted bills aimed at limiting the harms of social media without outright banning the services for children and teens.

These bills are similar in content to a bill currently before the U.S. Congress, the Kids Online Safety Act. That’s a bill Rodee, the mother of Riley K. Basford, has been publicly advocating for. Rodee said Tuesday that she is hopeful that New York would take charge and pass these bills to restrict social media’s effect on children, but also said she was generally unhappy with the meetings she had with legislators that day.

Rodee, a teacher at Banford Elementary School in Canton, lost her son Riley to suicide in 2021 after he was sextorted on Facebook Messenger — goaded into exchanging personal photos with someone posing as a teenager. That person, an adult from another country who worked with a string of similar predators, threatened to share those photos with family if Riley didn’t send them $3,500.

Riley, 15, was a sophomore at Potsdam Central School.

Since then, Rodee has worked with a number of advocacy groups, lending her voice and Riley’s story to the growing chorus of other families around the country who have experienced similar tragedies.

On Tuesday, Rodee was in Albany with Common Sense Media, a national advocacy group that pushes for more restrictive regulations on social media companies and internet platforms in their interactions with minor users.

She said she was glad to see the issue getting attention in Albany, but ultimately expressed frustration that she and other advocates are still having to explain the basics of their concerns.

“It’s all the same feeling of, I can’t believe I have to come here and ask you to protect kids,” she said.

She said she met with a number of lawmakers around Albany with the Common Sense Media group, and none were familiar with the bills the group was there to support, despite the group reaching out more than a week ago to set up meetings regarding the bills.

“I can’t believe we are still at the point where mothers are handing out copies of the bill in meetings with people whose job it is to know the bill,” she said.

Rodee said she is happy to see that James is adding her voice in support of this legislation and is pursuing lawsuits against Facebook parent company Meta for harming young people. Rodee said she has not had a personal interaction with James, but has communicated with her office via email regularly. She said she wants to get a moment to tell Riley’s story to James, to express the damage that is being done to young people across New York and beyond.

“I hope that she really does know the damage being done to families at such an extreme level, the parents, the children that are being harmed,” Rodee said.

Rodee’s advocacy continues. On Thursday she’ll be in New York City rallying with a newly formed advocacy group that featured at Wednesday’s rally in the Capitol, known as Mothers Against Media Addiction, or MAMA.

She said she may seek to start a north country chapter of MAMA in the future, to try and formalize anti-social media and child internet safety advocacy in her home region.

© 2024 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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