Effort to hold big tech accountable underway following outcry from parents

Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 4:18 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Social media companies are in the crosshairs of leaders around the country. After more than three dozen states filed lawsuits against Meta focusing on its addictive for-profit algorithm, federal lawmakers are also acting. On Capitol Hill a large group of senators argues these companies have consumed children’s’ minds, contributing to a youth mental health crisis.

“He hung himself in our garage while we slept as a family,” said Kristin Bride, a mother from Mesa, AZ.

“They slammed into a tree and Kaiea died instantly,” said Meghan Stuhmer, a mother from Las Vegas.

The two grieving mothers say they lost loved ones because of addictive platforms.

Bride says her son was bullied anonymously on an app connected to Snapchat, leading to his death by suicide.

Stuhmer says her daughter took part in a TikTok trend convincing young people to see how fast they can drive, which ended up killing her best friend. These moms want the cycle to stop.

“This shouldn’t be happening to our kids. We need our government to not let these multi-billion dollar companies profit off of killing our children,” said Stuhmer.

“This industry’s business model is attention and they will do anything to capture and addict the attention of our kids,” said Bride.

Bride and Stuhmer are calling on lawmakers to pass the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). It is a bipartisan bill with widespread support in the Senate.

“Give them tools to take back their online lives. Give parents the tools to protect their children. Hold big tech accountable,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Blumenthal says the bill would allow for the dismantling of some addictive features on social media apps, give parents more control, calls on companies to ensure they are assessing risks to minors, and allows for independent research to assess risks for minors. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is working on the bill with Blumenthal.

“We’ve been fighting an army of lobbyists and lawyers on this for years. Big tech is trying everything they can,” said Blackburn.

We reached out to multiple social media companies including TikTok and Snapchat for comment. Only Snapchat replied, saying, in part, “We…support many provisions being considered in bills like the Kids Online Safety Act…We are thankful for Congressional leadership in this area and we support efforts at creating nationwide standards to protect the safety of young people online.”

The legislation has a number of cosponsors but there is no known timeline for when it will pass through the Senate.