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Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has introduced a bill aimed at protecting children online by requiring social media companies to ban anyone under the age of 16 from using their platforms.
The bill presented Tuesday by Hawley, known as the Manufacturing Uniform, Robust and Effective Technology (MATURE) Act, states: “…commencing on the date 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the operator shall a social media platform will not allow an individual to create an account on the platform unless the individual is at least 16 years of age, which is verified by the platform using an age verification process.”
On social media platforms, users would have to provide their full legal name, date of birth and a government-issued ID before they could create an account and use the app. However, the bill exempts all social media accounts created before the bill went into effect.
The bill adds that social media platforms would also be banned from selling, transferring or using “information collected from an individual to verify the identity and age of the individual for other purposes.”
Hawley also introduced a second bill, the Federal Social Media Research Act, that would commission a study tracking the harmful effects of social media on children over a 10-year period.
“Children suffer from the effects of social media every day. At best, big tech companies neglect our children’s health and monetize their personal information. In the worst case, they become complicit in their exploitation and manipulation. It’s time to give parents the weapons they need to fight back,” Hawley said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.
“This starts with an age restriction on social media. And it’s high time for well-funded research on the scale of the problem. We need to set a precedent that these companies can no longer take advantage of our children.”
When it first launched in 2004, Facebook initially required users to be college students. It later expanded membership to include high school students and currently allows youth as young as 13 to have accounts. Both Twitter and TikTok allow accounts to be opened by 13-year-olds.
Efforts have recently been made to hold social media sites and apps accountable for the potential harm they cause to minors, whether through cyberbullying or sexual assault.
On Monday, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Maxie Hirono of Hawaii introduced the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act.
If enacted, their law would give Americans the right to require internet companies to delete any personal information collected from them when they were 13 years old or younger.
“All too often, internet companies try to monetize the collection of vast amounts of personally identifiable information about Americans, including children,” Durbin said. “It’s time to introduce stricter traffic rules – especially when it comes to our children who don’t fully understand the consequences of their online use.”
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