Meta Enacts More Child Protection, but PTC Says Congress Must Act to Protect Kids from Online Harms

Written by PTC | Published January 10, 2024

LOS ANGELES (January 10, 2024) – The Parents Television and Media Council (PTC) said that Meta’s announced changes to Instagram and Facebook are a good step towards protecting children from harmful content, but urged Congress to pass solutions to protect children from a plethora of online harms.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Meta plans to automatically restrict teen Instagram and Facebook accounts from harmful content including videos and posts about self-harm, graphic violence and eating disorders. Teen accounts—that is, accounts of under-18 users, based on the birth date entered during sign-up—will automatically be placed into the most restrictive content settings. Teens under 16 won’t be shown sexually explicit content.”

“Meta has been revealed by media outlets, whistleblowers, and lawsuits as fueling child sexual exploitation, providing a platform for pedophiles, and enabling sexually explicit and other harmful content that targets teens, especially teen girls. Meta was sued by the District of Columbia and 41 states claiming its products are addictive and potentially harmful to children and their mental health. Considering these harms, we are glad Meta appears to finally be taking child protection more seriously by automatically putting minor accounts in more restrictive settings. These are safety measures that Meta should have implemented from the start,” said Melissa Henson, vice president of the Parents Television and Media Council.

“But Congress, which has child protection bills before it, must understand that Meta’s new changes are not the final step in child protection. More must be done.

“Congress should pass solutions like the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), designed to hold social media companies accountable and establish a duty of care for protecting children online, the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0), which expands privacy protections to teens and for children under age 13, the EARN IT Act, which would ensure that technology platforms protect children from child sexual abuse material, and other legislation that serves children and families instead of Big Tech interests.

“Congress must hold Big Tech accountable and protect our children,” Henson added.

In November 2022, the PTC revealed that Hollywood is marketing teen-targeted TV shows with explicit adult content to young teens through social media sites like TikTok and Instagram that are popular with 13-17-year-olds, thereby doing an end-run around parents.

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