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Bipartisan social media bill plans to introduce digital ID age verification

Introducing privacy and free speech implications.

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A bipartisan bill that would require social media companies to check users’ ID and verify the age of users to prevent children under the age of 13 from signing up has been introduced in the Senate.

While the bill does advocate for ways to do this anonymously, and while the bill is aimed at protecting kids, it has privacy and free speech concerns as it could kill online anonymity, meaning people have to show ID to use social media.

The “Protecting Kids on Social Media Act” was introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Katie Britt (R-AL), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.

The bill would apply to platforms that allow users to publish text, photos, and videos, but would exempt certain services like cloud storage, videoconferencing, and “crowd-sourced content for reference guides.”

Platforms that are not exempt would be required to confirm the age of users “taking into account existing age verification technologies.”

Platforms would be required to allow parents to give their consent for children above 13 but below 18 to use their services. Platforms would also not be allowed to use the personal data of users under 18 for algorithmic recommendations. However, they would be allowed to recommend content and ads “based on context where the information or advertising is related to the content being viewed by the individual.”

Noncompliance with the bill would be viewed as a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The bill does not specify an age verification method. However, the Secretary of Commerce would be required to test an age verification program within two years of the bill going into effect. The secretary would launch a pilot program allowing people to obtain a “secure digital identification credential.”

The initial program would keep “aggregate data that is anonymized so that it cannot be linked to individual users.” Yet.

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