The In-Person Problem of Online Security

Global accessibility to the internet is a technological feat. However, the progression of social media and sharing sites where there is little to no regulation has led to the decline in children’s welfare and safety. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), sexual exploitation of teens and children is responsible for at least a dozen suicides in recent years (The Washington Post). The NCMEC has also reported the number of children targeted by adults asking for sexually explicit content or acts of “sextortion,” soared from about 80,000 to 186,000 between the years 2022 and 2023.  

On January 31, 2024, the issue was brought into the limelight in a hearing where the CEOs of Meta, X, Snapchat, TikTok, and Discord testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The child sexual abuse material (CSAM) issue is more complex than it seems; free speech, liability for tech companies, and the fact that around 90% of all CSAM content is posted by citizens outside of the U.S., all play a role in how to navigate the issue (The Washington Post). Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has also been brought under scrutiny, as it provides immunity to online service providers from taking accountability in lawsuits over their content users’ posts.  

The outcome of the high-profile hearing left victims and families of victims disappointed. Following the hearing, some families stayed behind, holding photos of their deceased children and lobbying the remaining congress members to pass the Kids Online Safety Act, KOSA for short (NCB). Mother Sharon Winkler, whose son took his life after cyberbullying, has had enough with hearings on the harm of social media and said, “It’s now time for Congress to enact protective laws,” (NBC).  

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