Proposed Law Would Require YouTube and Netflix to Do More to Protect Kids Online

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has announced new legislation that would require YouTube and Netflix to do more to protect children from viewing sex, violence, and drugs on their streaming services.

The proposed law, called the Kids Internet Design and Safety Act, aims to update children’s media regulations, which date back to 1990 and are focused on television broadcast services. The new rules would require all streaming services to better protect children from seeing harmful content, limit the kinds of ads they see, and include ratings on videos much like T.V. already does.

“The current policies are completely out of date, and the tech industry has forged ahead without regulation,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy nonprofit that supports the legislation. “This is long past due, and it is an incredibly important advance.”

If the bill gets enough bipartisan support, it could be considered during the current legislative session and take effect in 2020. Markey announced the proposed KIDS Act at the Truth About Tech Conference hosted by Common Sense Media in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

The KIDS Act would mark the second piece of legislation Markey has led in support of children. He also authored the Children’s Television Act, which required broadcasters to create educational programming for children and limited their exposure to commercials.

“While kids’ technology use and media consumption have exploded in recent years our laws have failed to keep pace,” Markey said in a statement. “Children and parents deserve new online rules of the road to ensure that children are able to thrive in our increasingly digital world.”

The proposed law stemmed from incidents in which children and families were unexpectedly exposed to inappropriate online content. For example, some of YouTube’s children’s videos reportedly have been doctored to include violent imagery and drug references.

Last month, YouTube and Facebook live streamed the mass shooting of people at two New Zealand mosques. Both services struggled to prevent the spread of the the recorded video.

In response to concerns about videos on its service, YouTube launched YouTube Kids in 2015. The service was meant to serve as a destination for children, offering kid-friendly videos and programming.

“Nobody is on YouTube Kids,” Steyer said. “Everyone is on YouTube. So this is going to apply to all of the platforms.”

The bill is also aimed at protecting children online addiction. It would require streaming service to eliminate built-in features that promote binge watching, like auto playing videos in succession.

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