MAMA, lawmakers rally outside Meta headquarters calling for kids privacy and safety online

Crystal Cranmore Image
Friday, March 22, 2024
MAMA, lawmakers rally outside Meta headquarters for kids online safety
Crystal Cranmore has the story in Lower Manhattan on the rally for lawmakers to create measures to protect kids' privacy and safety online.

MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- A rally was held in Manhattan outside Meta headquarters on Friday by advocate groups and lawmakers to stand up for kids privacy and safety online.

Mothers Against Media Addiction (MAMA), parents, teens and officials all joined together to demand the passage of two bills.

The New York Child Data Protection Act would stop online sites from collecting and selling your child's data without informed consent and it prevents them from disclosing that data to third parties.

The SAFE for Kids Act aims to protect children and teens from addictive algorithms on social media. It would allow users under 18 and their parents to opt out of receiving feeds driven by algorithms, and they would receive chronological feeds instead, like in the early days of social media.

Mary Rodee's son, Riley Basford, 15, was a victim of sextortion on Facebook and committed suicide in 2021.

"He thought it was a young woman with interest in him," Rodee said. "They sent him child sexual abuse content material, explicit pictures, asked for pictures in return, which he sent. And then they immediately demanded $500 from him and scared him to death."

On Friday, Rodee gave a voice to her son and countless others at the rally, calling on tech companies to put kids' safety before profits.

Studies have shown excessive screen time can have negative mental health effects on kids.

"It's been way too long that we've allowed our children to have access to these addictive algorithms without providing appropriate safeguards," added MAMA Founder and Mom-in-Chief Julie Scelfo.

The rally came as Meta faces lawsuits from dozens of states including New York that accuse the company of deliberately designing features on its platforms that addict children. The company and other social media CEOs testified before Congress in January regarding child exploitation. Tech: NYC represents large and small tech companies in New York, including Meta.

"Many of the big questions that Tech: NYC and others have about this legislation remain unanswered, including how age verification will be enforced and how other online platforms like news sites and blogs will be impacted," a Tech: NYC President and Executive Director Julie Samuels said in a statement.

Sen. Andrew Gounardes told Eyewitness News both bills are being considered as part of this years state budget bills.

"It'll break the addictive hold that these apps have over kids," Gounardes said. We've got to make a better world for kids."

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