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Taylor Swift AI, Elmo Checks In, and No Social Media for Florida Kids

Words by
Jackie Baucom

FEB 01, 2024

Taylor Swift AI, Elmo Checks In, and No Social Media for Florida Kids

Welcome to this week’s tech news! Each week we highlight the biggest stories related to kid’s safety online.

Florida Bans Social Media Accounts for Kids Under 16

Florida’s House passed a bill prohibiting children under 16 from major social media platforms, regardless of parental approval.

Meta suggested alternative solutions, and hopes to have this issue addressed at a federal level. 

Critics of the bill argue that it infringes on the First Amendment and is too broad.

AP | Florida House passes a bill to ban social media accounts for children under 16

Big Tech CEOs Testify Before Congress on Child Safety Failures

On January 31st, the CEOs of five major social media platforms — Meta, X, TikTok, Snap, and Discord — testified before a U.S. Senate committee on their efforts (and lack thereof) in combating child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse material on their respective platforms. 

The hearing underscores a rising sentiment among parents and civic leaders that big tech companies are not doing nearly enough to keep kids safe on their platforms.

Gabb | Social Media is Failing Children: Big Tech CEOs Testify Before Congress

Big Tech Files Lawsuit to Block Ohio Statute

Last summer, Ohio passed a law that requires parental consent for children under 16 on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

A tech industry group called NetChoice (which represents Meta, TikTok, Google, and others) filed a lawsuit halting its enforcement, arguing that the statute infringes on free speech.

Meta has urged Congress to enact legislation that shifts the responsibility of verifying a user’s age and getting parental consent to the Apple and Google app stores, rather than social media companies.

The New York Times: Silicon Valley Battles States Over New Online Safety Laws for Children

Sextortion Training Materials Found on Social Media Platforms

Financial sextortion — a rising cybercrime where perpetrators coerce victims, often minors, into sending explicit images and then threaten distribution unless paid — is on the rise.

A study identified a West African group dubbed “Yahoo Boys,” as main contributors to this crime using platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube.

NBC NEWS: Sextortion training materials found on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, according to new report

AI-Generated Sexually Explicit Images of Taylor Swift Leads to Proposed Bill

Last week, sexually explicit AI-generated images of Taylor Swift flooded X (formerly Twitter).

The term “Taylor Swift AI” quickly started trending, with some accounts getting more than 45 million views.

In response, US lawmakers proposed the DEFIANCE Act (Disrupt Explicit Forged Images and Non-Consensual Edits), which aims to address the spread of digitally manipulated explicit images, and allow victims to seek financial damages from anyone who produces or distributes the content.

The Verge: Lawmakers propose anti-nonconsensual AI porn bill after Taylor Swift controversy

Family Sues School After Assault Video Leads to Teen’s Suicide

The family of Adriana Kuch, a New Jersey teen who died by suicide after being assaulted at her high school, is suing the board of education and school officials for negligence.

The assault was filmed and shared online by students. 

The family says the public humiliation led to her suicide and the lawsuit alleges the school knew of a culture of violence and failed to protect Adriana.

CNN: She died by suicide days after being attached at school. Now her family is suing the school board

Elmo Checks In and X Users Respond

Elmo, the red fuzzy monster from “Sesame Street,” posted on his X account, “Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?”

It was an innocent question that prompted emotional responses from thousands claiming to not be doing okay and even President Biden joined the conversation, posting to encourage everyone to offer and ask for help when needed.

The New York Times: Elmo Asked an Innocuous Question

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