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Parent groups urge Schumer to quickly move on bill to place safety restrictions on all social platforms

A coalition of parent groups urged Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer to speed up the passage of the Kids Online Safety Act to better protect minors from the dangers of harassment, bullying, anxiety, sex abuse, and extortion on social media platforms.

In an open letter to Schumer obtained by The Post Wednesday, the activists have demanded a floor vote on the bipartisan bill that hopes to place guardrails on the most popular social media sites used by children.

“Don’t be fooled. Banning TikTok won’t protect children because the problems are built into all social media. And Congress has the power to do something about it,” the parent activists said in the open letter to Schumer.

Parenting groups have sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer to urge him to speed up the passage of the Kids Online Safety Act. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Parenting groups have sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer to urge him to speed up the passage of the Kids Online Safety Act. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“Regardless of whether the U.S. Senate decides to join the U.S. House of Representatives in forcing a TikTok sale, we urge you to bring the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) to a floor vote during the April work period.

“KOSA would make all platforms – including Instagram, Snap, YouTube, Discord and the dozens of start-ups hoping to take TikTok’s place – take real steps to ensure their platforms aren’t harming young people.”

One group, ParentsTogether, will also deliver a petition to Schumer’s office. The letter, signed by more than 50 groups, said just banning TikTok is not enough to address the perils of social media for minors.

Among the New York parents involved in the lobbying effort include Mary Rodee, whose son died by suicide after being sextorted on Facebook, and Julianna Arnold, whose daughter died of fentanyl poisoning after buying drugs on Instagram.

Mary Rodee, whose son Riley committed suicide after an online sextortion plot, is part of the lobbying effort for the bill. Courtesy of Mary Rodee
Mary Rodee, whose son Riley committed suicide after an online sextortion plot, is part of the lobbying effort for the bill. Courtesy of Mary Rodee

“My son Riley died from suicide after being sexually exploited on Facebook,” Rodee said during riveting testimony before the Senate in January, as she held up a photo of her son, who in 2021 killed himself just six hours after a predator coerced him into sharing explicit images online and then blackmailed him.

Curbing the dangers of social media for young people is one of the few issues that draws support across the political spectrum, and parents are frustrated by the delay in bringing the popular measure to the floor for a vote.

The backers of the bills told Schumer they hope the legislation will help stop “sending kids down dangerous and deadly rabbit holes of pro-suicide and eating disorders content.”

Rodee testified about her son’s death at a Senate hearing in January. Courtesy of Mary Rodee
Rodee testified about her son’s death at a Senate hearing in January. Courtesy of Mary Rodee

They continued: “No more enticing them to attempt dangerous challenges; and no more design features that make children more vulnerable to predation, drug dealers, and cyberbullying.”

The bill would impose a legal “duty of care” on tech platforms to protect minors from dangers including harassment, bullying, anxiety, sex abuse, extortion, eating disorders, substance abuse, and illegal advertisements – or face enforcement action by the Federal Trade Commission.

It requires social media platforms to provide minors with options to protect their information, disable addictive product features, have strong default settings, an opt out of personalized algorithmic recommendations, and a dedicated channel to report harm to kids.

KOSA  has been endorsed by a broad cross-section of groups including: Common Sense Media, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Compass, Eating Disorders Coalition, Fairplay, Mental Health America, and Digital Progress Institute.

An organizer, Accountable Tech, is paying to have the letter sent to Schumer appear as an ad in the New York Times, sources said.

“Senator Schumer is a direct sponsor of this bill and working with others to get it done,” Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said Wednesday.

In the letter, KOSA supporters said, “We understand the urgency of responding to a national security threat. But our kids are in crisis in large part thanks to unregulated social media. And that problem deserves an urgent response too.”