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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Politics

Sen. Josh Hawley proposes minimum age for social media use

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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wants to set the minimum age for creating a social media profile to 16 years old. To enforce it, Hawley said social media companies would be required to verify users’ ages.

“We now have more and more data on the effects of social media platforms on children, particularly young children, and it’s overwhelmingly negative. So let’s help parents here actually protect their children,” Hawley said.

Hawley was asked: Why does the federal government need to get involved? Why can’t parents make their own decisions?

“Kids can go online and set up their own accounts, parents don’t know about it, they don’t have any idea what’s happening. The technology is changing faster than parents can keep up with,” Hawley answered.

The former state attorney general also wants to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that protects social media companies from lawsuits. Facebook and other tech giants have a budget to pay for FTC fines so that doesn’t change their policies. For instance in 2019, Facebook set aside $3 billion of its cash-on-hand in anticipation of a fine that was coming later that year. 

Hawley said if fines aren’t working to change behavior, lawsuits from parents would.

“These platforms ought to be on the hook if there’s child exploitative material, child abuse material on the platforms and they know about it and should have known about it. They should be able to be sued for that. This is the only thing that’s going to get their attention,” Hawley said.

Hawley acknowledged that his proposal would probably hurt social media companies, but he said that’s not a bad thing.

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“We now have more and more data on the effects of social media platforms on children, particularly young children, and it’s overwhelmingly negative. So let’s help parents here actually protect their children,” Hawley said.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wants to set a minimum age for creating a social media profile at 16-years-old. To enforce it, Hawley said social media companies would be required to verify users’ ages.

Hawley was asked – why does the federal government need to get involved, why can’t parents make their own decision?

“Kids can go online and set up their own accounts, parents don’t know about it, they don’t have any idea what’s happening. The technology is changing faster than parents can keep up with,” Hawley answered.

The former state attorney general also wants to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that protects social media companies from lawsuits. Facebook and other tech giants have a budget to pay for FTC fines so that doesn’t change their policies. For instance in 2019, Facebook set aside $3 billion of its cash-on-hand in anticipation of a fine that was coming later that year. 

Hawley said if fines aren’t working to change behavior, lawsuits from parents would.

“These platforms ought to be on the hook if there’s child exploitative material, child abuse material on the platforms and they know about it and should have known about it. They should be able to be sewed for that. This is the only thing that’s going to get their attention,” Hawley said.

Hawley acknowledged that his proposal would probably hurt social media companies, but he says that’s not a bad thing.