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Graham: Tech companies should 'earn' liability shield

Laura Castro Lindarte, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Science & Technology News

Another case was brought up by panel member Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn about a 22-year-old man charged with two counts of child exploitation after coercing at least two underage boys to send him explicit photos while pretending to be a teenage girl on Snapchat. On Monday, Blackburn sent a letter to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel about the case and others, asking how Snapchat ensures safety in its platform.

During the hearing, Graham said he wants to bring in the tech giants to testify on what they are doing to ensure their underage users' safety. Sen. Richard Blumenthal added that the Federal Trade Commission should also be called to testify about its enforcement of a 1998 child protection law, which he said was lacking.

"The best laws in the world are dead letter if they are not enforced," the Connecticut Democrat said.

The 1998 law, titled the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, was intended to protect kids under younger than 13 by requiring websites tailored to children to require parental consent to gather or use any data collected from the young users.

Sen. Josh Hawley last month introduced a bill prohibiting video platforms from recommending videos that featured one or more minors. Platforms that fail to comply would have to pay a maximum of $1,000 for each video that violated the rule or $10,000 per day.

"This report was sickening but what I think was even more sickening was YouTube's refusal to do anything about it," the Missouri Republican said. "Why not? Because their model is that 70% of their business, 70% of their traffic comes from these auto-recommended videos."

He has also co-sponsored a bill with Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey, of Massachusetts, to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by prohibiting digital platforms from collecting personal data and location from anyone under 13 without parental consent and anyone ages 13-to-15 without user consent.

 

Graham didn't close the door to extending his plan to the broader set of accountability challenges surrounding digital platforms, but said kid safety would be the focus right now.

"I think that's a good place to start," he said. "I'd hate to be the Democrat or Republican that (is) against that one, so let's start there."

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