Photo of Sheila Millar

Children’s and teen’s online privacy and safety – particularly their mental health – continues to be an area of intense scrutiny for lawmakers, regulators, and enforcers. Last May, the Biden administration announced the creation of a new task force focused on the safety, privacy, and wellbeing of children online, linked to an Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health issued by the U.S. Surgeon General the same day. The task force is slated to produce voluntary guidance, policy recommendations, and a toolkit on safety, health, and privacy-by-design for industry developing digital products and services by Spring 2024. As part of this initiative, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce (DOC) published a Request for Comments (RFC) in the Federal Register on October 10, 2023. The RFC seeks public feedback on the best ways to protect the mental health, safety, and privacy of minors online, now characterized as an urgent public health issue by the Surgeon General.

But there’s more. Proving that both red states and blue states can agree on some issues, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general (AGs) filed a federal lawsuit against social media giant Meta Platforms Inc (Meta) and other Meta entities on October 24, 2023, and nine AGs filed complaints in their states. The complaints allege violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and other legal violations related to allegedly harmful design features and practices by the Meta entities that, the complaints allege, contribute to body dysmorphia, sadness, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health harms. Read the full article here.