On March 5, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act.  The bill, which covers online platforms directed to children and teenagers under 16 years old, aims to curb the time spent by these minors on such platforms and could dramatically affect advertising and influencer content on kids’ channels.

The bill would prohibit platforms directed to minors from implementing features that encourage users to spend more time online, such as “auto-play” settings that automatically load a new video once the selected one finishes playing, push alerts that encourage users to engage with the platform, and the display of positive feedback received from other users.  It would also ban badges or other visual incentives and rewards based on engagement with the platform.

Additionally, the KIDS Act would prohibit platforms from recommending or amplifying certain content involving sexual, violent, or other adult material, including gambling or “other dangerous, abusive, exploitative, or wholly commercial content.”  The bill would require the implementation of a mechanism for users to report suspected violations of content requirements.

The measure also targets certain advertising and marketing methods, including host-selling (advertising that features the same characters or individuals who appear in adjacent content), “program-length advertisements” (which is not defined in the bill), branded content, and product placement.  The bill generally would restrict commercial content that utilizes “imbedded interactive elements”, would ban platforms from recommending content involving alcohol, nicotine, or tobacco, and would require platform operators to publish a publicly available record of all content playable or viewable on the platform.

Separately, the bill would require the Federal Trade Commission to submit recommendations for a labeling system that allows parents to identify “noncommercial, educational, and enriching” content for minors.  It would also establish a grant program to encourage the creation and promotion of ad-free, educational content for minors.

In addition to the proposed KIDS Act, Senator Markey was an author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which regulates personal information collected from children.  Earlier last year, he and Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced the “COPPA 2.0” bill, which would amend COPPA to bring personal information collected from minors aged 13-15 years old within the law’s purview and to offer an “eraser button” for deleting personal data from particular services.  Other pending kids’ internet bills in Congress include House Representative Kathy Castor’s (D-FL) PRIVCY Act, as well as Representatives Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Bobby Rush’s (D-IL) PROTECT Kids Act, both of which would amend COPPA to raise the age of users covered by the law.