The Flaws of the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA)

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This Week in Tech, hosted by Leo Laporte, recently featured an in-depth discussion on the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). With bipartisan support from over 60 Senators, including an odd couple like Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Dick Blumenthal (D-CT), KOSA aims to better protect children online. However, the TWiT panelists exposed major flaws in the legislation.

Shoshana Weissmann led the criticism, calling KOSA "unconstitutional many times over." The main issue is around age verification. To enforce age-based restrictions, kids would likely have to provide private data like social security numbers, scans, and IDs, which raises major privacy and security concerns. Weissmann also argued that KOSA ignores legal precedent on age restrictions.

Specific provisions, like limiting infinite scroll and autoplay, were also critiqued as misguided. It was noted by Amanda Silberling that these features are permitted on adult services like Netflix, but restricted on services aimed at teenagers. There are also First Amendment issues with the government restricting platforms' design choices. Additionally, giving state attorney generals power over content moderation raises concerns about political agendas influencing platforms' policies. While the latest KOSA draft shifts this power to the FTC, the panelists still find the approach extremely problematic.

With parental control measures also typically failing in their goals, the TWiT panelists argued proper education on media literacy and online safety is far more constructive than heavy-handed, and likely unconstitutional, government regulation. So, while protecting children online is a worthwhile cause, the experts on TWiT explain why KOSA fails in its approach. Real change must come from parents, schools, and better technology - not reactionary and flawed legislation.

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