Evansville mom speaks before Congress on social media accountability

Evansville mom speaks before Congress on social media accountability
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:09 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - An Evansville mom who lost her youngest son to a challenge he saw on social media is speaking out.

15-year-old Mason Bogard donated his organs to five different people. He, like many other kids his age, took part in a viral internet “choking challenge.” Unlike his peers, Bogard didn’t wake up.

And now, his mother, Joann, is working to create change in a system that she says isn’t geared toward kids.

“Every day that goes by without some kind of legislation in place, another child dies,” says Joann, “because these companies are billion-dollar companies, and they have no laws that say what they can and can’t do.”

Joann, along with a group of other moms, met with CEOs and leaders of social media platforms.

She says after speaking with them, she realized they had no interest in changing the way things are run.

“These platforms were not designed with kids in mind, so they’re being exposed to harmful content, online challenges, cyberbullying, drugs sold online, just everything you can think of that we try to protect them from,” says Joann.

Joann says she and the others took it a step further, bringing their case to legislators.

She returned Thursday after two days spent on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., telling Mason’s story and urging lawmakers to help them help kids.

She says they spoke with roughly 15 lawmakers in the past couple of days, and having legislators and members of Congress listen to their stories face to face, stories like Mason’s, is what makes the difference.

“When they see how hurt you are, and these are tears and pain that will never go away,” says Joann, “parents who lose their children or anyone who they love, that doesn’t go away.”

They are pushing for KOSA, the “Kids Online Safety Act,” hoping to enforce stricter regulations on social media.

Joann hopes if they can gain traction and get it passed, it could keep other parents from having to bury their children.

“I was also that mom who like many of us, thought ‘not my kid. He’s too smart to do that. He would never do anything like that,’” says Joann, “don’t ever say that. ‘Not my kid,’ should not be in our language. Their brains are not fully developed, and they are kids. That’s why we put these safety features in place.”

Here is the summary of the Kids Online Safety Act Bill:

This bill sets out requirements for covered platforms (i.e., applications or services that connect to the internet and are likely to be used by minors) to protect minors from online harms.

A covered platform must act in the best interest of a minor using its application or service. This includes a duty to prevent and mitigate heightened risks of harms that may arise from using the platform (e.g., sexual exploitation).

Covered platforms must provide (1) a minor (or a parent) with certain safeguards, such as settings that restrict access to a minor’s personal data; and (2) parents with tools to supervise the minor’s use of a platform, such as control of privacy and account settings.

A covered platform must also disclose specified information, including how, with respect to minors, the platform uses algorithms or targeted advertising.

Further, a covered platform must (1) allow minors and parents to report certain harms, (2) refrain from facilitating advertising of products or services that are illegal to sell to minors, and (3) annually report on foreseeable risks of harm to minors posed by use of the platform.

The bill provides for enforcement through the Federal Trade Commission and states.

In addition, the bill establishes a program to facilitate relevant public interest research and a council to advise on the bill’s implementation. It also requires guidelines for market and product research focused on minors and an evaluation of options for age verification at the device or operating system level.