Kids Online Safety Act gains bipartisan support in Washington

Dozens of parents who blame online abuse for their child’s death were in Washington last week for a Senate judiciary hearing

SAN ANTONIO – Dozens of parents who blame online abuse for their child’s death were in Washington last week for a Senate judiciary hearing.

“It’s been an emotional and physically draining long week for us. The hearing was, It was dramatic,” said Maurine Molak, co-founder of David’s Legacy Foundation

Maurine Molak lost her son David at 16 to suicide. She says David was addicted to social media and being cyberbullied.

“David died by suicide in 2016 after a year-long battle with his addiction to social media and internet gaming. He was cyberbullied for the last three months of his life,” said Molak.

She and the other parents were in attendance at Capital Hill as top lawmakers questioned CEOs of top digital companies about the safety of the internet.

“You have a product that is killing people,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The attendance of all the parents got the attention and an apology from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered,” said Zuckerberg. Molak told KSAT, “That’s not what we needed from him. We needed assurances from him, and we needed his support behind the Kids Online Safety Act.”

The Kids Online Safety Act would require online services like social media networks, video game sites, and messaging apps to take “reasonable measures” to prevent harm — including online bullying, harassment, sexual exploitation, anorexia, self-harm and predatory marketing — to minors who used their platforms.

It would also require the services to turn on the highest privacy and safety settings by default for users under 18. It would allow young people to limit or opt out of features like personalized newsfeeds, smartphone notifications, and auto-playing videos “that result in compulsive” use of apps.

Molak says the bill has gained a lot of bipartisan support, but a floor vote date has not been scheduled yet.

About the Authors

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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