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Minnesota lawmakers re-consider bill to boost child safety features on digital platforms

Minnesota lawmakers re-consider bill to boost child safety features on digital platforms
Minnesota lawmakers re-consider bill to boost child safety features on digital platforms 01:49

SAINT PAUL, Minn.   The Minnesota Legislature is reconsidering a bill that would require companies to analyze and mitigate child safety risks on their platforms.

The "Minnesota Age-Appropriate Design Code Act" cleared a key committee this week at the capitol as lawmakers try to protect kids from social media and other websites that can harm their mental, physical and emotional health.

The proposal would limit the amount of data collected on children and implement rules on how it can be used.It also requires any business that has an online platform or service that can be accessed by kids to perform "impact assessments" on the risks to their safety before releasing new digital features or products.  

"What we're really saying with this bill is it's time to apply a lens of safety. It's time to think about the harms that are being created and to really put common sense to work," said Rep. Kristin Bahner, DFL-Maple Grove.  

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This latest effort comes as tech company giants have faced intense scrutiny recently from policymakers about how their platforms have impacted children. 

Parents testified of their children's interactions online, imploring that they pass the bill to make social media and other apps safer for them. NetChoice, a trade association representing X, Meta, Snapchat and TikTok, is pushing back on the bill.

A federal judge blocked a similar measure in California over concerns it violates the First Amendment. Amy Bos, Director of State and Federal Affairs for NetChoice, believes if Minnesota's version passes it will also be tied up in court. 

This legislation first got a hearing last year in St. Paul. Bahner and other bill sponsors have made changes since then.

"While well-intended, the proposed amendment remains fundamentally flawed from a legal perspective and a policy perspective," Bos said of the tweaks made to the design code bill. "An unconstitutional law protects no one, including kids."

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Bridgette Norring of Hastings said her teenage son died of an overdose after he bought a pill that turned out to be a fatal dose of fentanyl from a dealer he connected with on Snapchat.

"These companies are incentivized to design their products with features that become addictive like nudges to engage and user features like recommending profiles a child may like based on previous behavior," Norring said. "They make those recommendations even if that means connecting a child user to an adult stranger who might sell them drugs or otherwise put them in harm's way. This should not be allowed."

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