Legislative Approaches to Combating Online Harms to Children

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A guide to the approaches adopted or proposed by legislators to protect children from online harms.
  • White paper by Tim Bernard for the Program on Platform Regulation
Minors are exposed to a significant number of possible harms online, some the same as those experienced by adults, and some distinct. Legislators across the United States and around the world have been persuaded to take action, drafting and passing laws specifically aimed at combating these harms to children, in addition to including child-focused measures within larger regimes like the EU Digital Services Act and the UK Online Safety Act. While certain paradigms may dominate in particular settings, this legislation varies quite considerably, based on differing ideological and constitutional frameworks, as well as the kinds of harm that are being targeted and assessments of what will have the most impact.
In order to help policymakers, activists, and those in industry understand the range of options at the disposal of legislatures, along with their respective trade-offs, the Program on Platform Regulation presents this white paper by tech policy analyst Tim Bernard. It lays out the relevant harms that children are thought to be subject to online and describes both major trends and outlier proposals in legislative efforts. It cites a range of specific examples, many from the US, but also from several other countries or regions. The various legal and political challenges to these laws are also discussed.

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Daphne Keller of the Program on Platform Regulation, and Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Director of the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy at Stanford, have filed an amicus "friend of the court" brief in the NetChoice Supreme Court case(s)
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