Social Media Harms

Amended Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) 2023 Responds to Advocates Concerns

Echos Public Demands for Strengthened Online Safeguards for Youth

Sharon Winkler
Social Media Harms


Newly updated Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) of 2023 addresses concerns US parents, students, educators and advocates have about youth online safety. With these changes, KOSA now has 65 Senate co-sponsors and momentum is growing to pass this bill in the US Congress. Senate majority leader Schumer released a “Dear Colleagues” letter on April 5, 2024, urging fellow congressional representatives to pass bipartisan bills that “advance online safety for kids.”

Advocates are eagerly awaiting this bill to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Josh Golin, Executive Director of the nonprofit Fairplay, wrote in The Hill on April 3, 2024 :

“The Kids Online Safety Act is the only bill that would address the wide range of design-caused harms children experience online… The bill has 65 Senate cosponsors, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), setting it up to sail through a floor vote….. When motivated, we know that the House can pass tech legislation and that the Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), can move fast.”

How Does KOSA Prevent Youth Online Harms?

KOSA requires technology companies to provide tools, safeguards and public information regarding young people’s online experiences that will help protect children and teens against online harms.

First introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in February of 2022, KOSA has been through many revisions, taking into account concerns voiced by many LGBTQ+ and privacy advocates as well as addressing concerns by fellow lawmakers. KOSA was re-introduced in May 2023; approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in July 2023 and underwent changes again in December 2023 and February 2024.

Privacy Settings

  • KOSA requires that the highest level safety features are enabled by default for users under 13 years old.
  • This includes limiting the ability of adult users to send private messages to minors they do not know and prevents other users from viewing minor users’ personal data. Peer reviewed research has shown that direct messaging is the primary method for targeted youth to be contacted online.
  • Minor users must be able to opt out of personalized recommendation systems (algorithms), disable addictive product features like notifications and delete their accounts and any personal data collected.
  • Social media companies will be required to restrict sharing of minor’s geolocation and notify minors when they are being tracked.
  • Users over 13 may choose their safety settings.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Youth Access to Online Information

  • KOSA requires that minor users be able to access to information they have specifically requested or used search features to find.
  • Minor users will be notified when parental controls are in effect.
  • Users over 13 may choose their safety settings.
  • Non-profit organizations are exempted from KOSA, allowing them to provide evidence-informed information and clinical resources to minor users.
  • Nothing in KOSA prevents users/organizations from sharing evidenced-informed information and clinical resources.

Dedicated Harms Reporting Systems/Parental Controls

  • Social media platforms must provide a dedicated reporting channel to alert the platform of harms to minors and requires them to substantively respond in a reasonable and timely manner.
  • KOSA requires platforms to have parental tools to include the ability to restrict purchases, control privacy and account settings and time spent in online programs.

Duty of Care

“Duty of Care” is a legal term. It establishes a “legal responsibility of a person or organization to avoid any behaviors or omissions that could reasonably be foreseen to cause harm to others” according to This duty is defined very narrowly in KOSA, calling on platforms to “prevent and mitigate” a fixed and clearly established set of harms including the promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and the advertising of certain illegal products.

The US Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcing KOSA. State attorneys general may bring legal action against platforms for failure to comply with requirements of specific design features and failure to perform required yearly audits.

Public Audits and Researcher Access

  • KOSA requires annual, independent, third-party risk assessments, whose findings are made available to the public.
  • KOSA mandates that online platforms provide data to the National Academy of Sciences to allowing the Academy to conduct no fewer than five studies on the risk of harms to minors by use of social media and other online platforms, including in English and non-English languages.
Image by 13smok from Pixabay

What’s Not in KOSA

  • KOSA does not require government identification for age verification. The bill directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct a study evaluating the most technologically feasible methods and options for developing systems to verify age at the device or operating system level.
  • KOSA does not modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, nor does it make technology companies liable for content they host or decide to remove.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

LGBTQ+ Advocacy Groups Drop Opposition

When KOSA was introduced in 2022, many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups had concerns that the bill would limit LGBTA+ youth access to information. After many discussions, the legislation was modified to address these concerns. On February 15, 2024, GLAAD, GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG National, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality and The Trevor Project to sent a letter to SENs Blumenthal and Blackburn with the following statement:

“The considerable changes that you have proposed to KOSA in the draft released on February 15, 2024, significantly mitigate the risk of it being misused to suppress LGBTQ+ resources or stifle young people’s access to online communities. As such, if this draft of the bill moves forward, our organizations will not oppose its passage.”


For over two years, KOSA has been refined to provide youth online protections while ensuring that minors still have the right to access online information. It is time for the social media industry to comply with regulations that help provide safe online environments for youth. Contact your representative in the US House and ask them to introduce KOSA now.

Social Media Harms provides listings of over 260 peer-reviewed studies, books and articles from authoritative sources that document the negative effects of social media use. It is meant to be a tool to be used by people who are concerned about social media’s negative effects on people’s emotions, actions and lives. We do not solicit donations, however, we are asking for additions to our lists of peer reviewed studies and authoritative books and articles.

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Sharon Winkler
Social Media Harms

Publisher/Editor Social Media Harms, Mother, Grandmother, Retired U. S. Naval Officer